What to eat, drink, do and see at Fayetteville’s International Folk Festival this weekend

This weekend, the International Folk Festival, a celebration of the area’s cultures and diversity, returns to Fayetteville. 

In its 45th year, the free three-day event is expected to draw more than 75,000 attendees to Festival Park and downtown Fayetteville.

Robert Pinson, president and CEO of The Arts Council, which organizes the event, said that the festival has the same mission now as when it was founded in 1978 — using art as a common denominator to celebrate diversity and bring people together. 

The festival, like other artistic events and productions, took a hiatus during the pandemic, which Pinson said underscored the need for people to experience art.

“Art is no longer just entertainment. It’s absolutely essential to who we are as people and our mental health,” he said. 

Fayetteville’s International Folk Festival brings visual art, as well as dance, music, fashion and food from across the globe into the spotlight. 

Here’s a look at the menu, schedule and things to do. 

What food will be at the International Folk Festival? 

Festivalgoers can choose from dozens of food vendors stationed along the Festival Park promenade offering cuisines from nations like Belize, Liberia, Jamaica, India, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Peru, Mexico, Ethiopia and Trinidad and Tobago.

Can’t decide? New this year are Taste of the World tickets, which include four samples from international food vendors. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at either of two beer tents, Pinson said.

Food trucks and concession stands will also be operating at the park and around downtown.

Will alcohol be sold at the International Folk Festival?

Brews and seltzers from Hope Mills’ Dirtbag Ales and Fayetteville’s Healy Wholesale will be available for purchase at each of the beverage tents, Pinson said. Unlike past years, wine will not be available.

This is the first time that the International Folk Festival is happening since the Downtown Social District went into effect in December. Patrons can sip alcohol purchased at designated restaurants and bars as they stroll and shop within the limits of the Social District, which is mainly on Hay and Person streets. That includes some parts of the festival, like the stage at Hay Street and Ray Avenue.

What’s next for the Social District?To-go alcohol sales in Fayetteville are booming

The 2023 International Folk Festival Parade of Nations is 10 a.m. Saturday on Hay Street.

What’s the schedule for the International Folk Festival? 


6 p.m.: The festival kicks off with a Fiesta Latina-themed 4th Friday event honoring Hispanic Heritage Month. 


8 a.m.: The day starts with the 5K Around the World Run at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden.  

10 a.m.: The Parade of Nations on Hay Street represents dozens of international cultures. For the first time, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Uruguay will be included. 

11 a.m.: International food vendors line Festival Park’s promenade while the kids’ area offers free and paid rides. The art market along Ray Avenue opens. Food trucks operate downtown. 

Noon to 7:30 p.m.: Mexican, Latin, African, Native American and Brazilian bands take the stage at Festival Park. See the full performance schedule here. 

12:30 to 4:30 p.m.: Storytelling, magic, mime and other performances get underway at the Kids World of Wonder stage at Festival Park. 

12:45 to 6 p.m.: First Nations Tribal Youth dance at the Native American stage at Festival Park.  

1 to 6 p.m.: Hawaiian, Mexican, Filipino, Latin, Okinawan and Indian dance troupes perform on the international stage on Hay Street.

5 p.m.: Hot air balloon rides take off. Attendees can enter to win a ride at The Arts Council booth. 

7:30 p.m.: SantanaWays, a California-based Carlos Santana tribute band, performs on Festival Park’s main stage.

Three stages will host performances Saturday at the 2023 International Folk Festival in Fayetteville.


1 p.m.: Festival Park opens for festivities, including international food vendors, an arts market, and the kids’ area. Live performances from Brazilian and Latin bands and acrobatic performers commence on the main Festival Park stage. 

5 p.m.: Hot air balloon rides take off. Wazumbians, an Afrofusion band hailing from Ghana, performs on the main Festival Park stage. 

Road closures during the International Folk Festival

The following streets closures begin Friday at 4:30 p.m. and remain in effect overnight.

  • 100, 200, 300 and 400 blocks of Hay Street
  • Ray Avenue from Maiden Lane to Franklin Street
  • Burgess and Anderson Streets at Old Street
  • Maxwell and Donaldson Streets at Franklin Street
  • Market Square roundabout from Green Street at Old Street, Person Street and Gillespie Street at Franklin Street

The following road closures will be in effect from 7 a.m. Saturday through the conclusion of the Parade of Nations:

  • Ray Avenue to Rowan Street
  • Person Street to North Cool Spring Street

The following street closures will remain in place after the conclusion of the parade through Sunday at 9 p.m.:

  • 300 and 400 blocks of Hay Street
  • Ray Avenue from Rowan Street to Franklin Street, with the exception of 7 to 11:45 a.m. Sunday for churchgoers
  • Mason Street at Arch Street
  • Maiden Lane and Old Street at Burgess Street

Food, dining and culture reporter Taylor Shook can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter, or Facebook. Want weekly food news delivered to your inbox? Sign up for the Fayetteville Foodies newsletter

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