The Allentown community is rich and vibrant with diversity, and a number of dynamic and unique celebrations have sprung up over the course of the past few years to celebrate the multitude of unique backgrounds and cultures, which work to further enrich the many important cultural facets of the Lehigh Valley.
This past weekend marked the fifth annual celebration of Allentown’s West End World of Food Festival, which attracted a large number of visitors and vendors from all across the area. Many were small businesses looking to promote an aspect of their culture through their culinary traditions. The event featured a number of food trucks and tents, with dishes from Latin America, Asia, Africa and beyond.
From noon until 11pm on Saturday, Sept. 21, Liberty Street and 19th street were aglow with the sights and smells of a vibrant array of all types of cuisine from all across the globe, and featured everything from assorted varieties and interpretations of the classic burger-and-fries combo to more exotic foods, such as specialty meats from Jamaica.
Food wasn’t all that was featured in this jam-packed festival, however. The West End World of Food Festival had an astonishing amount of support from local businesses. Everything from privately owned insurance agencies and law firms to appliance and technology stores to realtors’ offices and beauty salons in the area, among numerous others, came out to proudly support the community as friends and allies of the ever-growing diversity awareness movement in Allentown.
Bang Cookies, run by husband-and-wife duo Tammy and Steve Carter, was one of a number of businesses that truly got to witness the power of a group of people coming together to celebrate the gift of diversity within the Lehigh Valley region.
“At first we weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into,” says Tammy Carter. “But as the day went on, it was pleasant to see so many friendly faces and to meet so many interesting people. This event is definitely something special.”
The Carters explained that they usually just focus on the business aspect, seeing as how they are trying to grow and expand their pool of interested customers, but this festival was the first time they’ve felt truly immersed in the event as a whole, and felt as if they were part of a huge family.
This was prevalent in talking to a number of the other vendors as well. All of them seemed to describe a certain “magic” surrounding Allentown’s West End World of Food Festival.
Another first-time vendor at the festival was Marie Reiner, of The Bake-A-Re, who was sharing her baked goods with the community along with her husband.
“I’m so thrilled to see so many people of all ages and from all backgrounds enjoying the same food,” she explained. “I’ve always felt a kind of charm surrounding a good meal, and today gives me hope that it may just be the catalyst we need to ensure a safer, healthier Allentown in years to come.”
Marie also highlighted the star attraction of the day: the live music acts that graced the stage to entertain a dense crowd of entertained onlookers. “The fact that we can all enjoy this music together,” continued Reiner, “Well, it just doesn’t get any better than that. It just goes to show that no matter where we come from or where we’re going, music can be enjoyed by every single person in this town together. Music levels the playing field, and it’s something that just makes an already terrific opportunity that much more terrific.”
If given the opportunity in the coming weeks and months, keep an eye out for even more cultural celebrations, and remember that each person who attends works to enrich the community by benefiting the variety of small businesses is representing the melting pot of backgrounds present in Allentown.