The Best Nine Bay Area World Culture Festivals To Attend For 2019

Greek Dancers in Belmont, 2005 (Dvortygirl, Wikimedia Commons)

Attending world culture festivals featuring traditional music, dance, and food is an excellent way to experience and fall in love with a culture and a people. Often organized by an ethnic church or organization, these celebrations are staffed by community volunteers who are happy to share their art and culture. Here are a list of 8 ethnic festivals in the greater Bay Area that occu- r from August through October. Most are free or will charge a small entrance admission. All feature authentic traditional cuisine, vendors, traditional dance performances and music, and dance participation.

The majority of these festivals have traditionally been held in the Fall. Traditionally the Fall harvest has been a time of celebration for all cultures. Nevertheless, you’ll want to attend festivals and concerts year round. You may find dates for additional cultural festivals announced soon after this publication.

The organizers love to see participants dance and will encourage you to follow them in some simple steps either spontaneously or during a short workshop for beginners. These people enjoy answering questions on their culture and will pose for a picture with you too. Ask any friendly booth operator that looks idle.

When dancing with the “naturals” at these events I find myself complimented upon my dance technique and experience, even if I just picked up the dance pattern there. Sometimes that compliment is not spoken for me to understand first in English. Nevertheless, dance and music is always our universal language to share the joyful, creative expression that you’ll find at many ethnic festivals.

1. The San Francisco Free Folk Festival

San Francisco, June 8, 2019
In its 43rd year the San Francisco Free Folk Festival features a full day of music, dance, and storytelling workshops and concerts, crafts, vendors, and fun for the whole family. No admission fee but donations gratefully accepted. This year is the centenary of Pete Seeger’s birth and several special events including sing-a-longs are planned. Look for free Contra, Klezmer, Israeli, Greek, and International dance workshops in the program starting at noon and an evening dance party. Read more…

2. Greek Festivals

Belmont, August 31-September 2, 2019 –
Santa Cruz, September 6-8, 2019 –
Dance and drama performances, good food, spirits, and dancing to spirited live Greek music as well. Opa!

3. Lebanese Festival

Redwood City, August 31, 2019
Traditional dancing to live music in the City Center and delicious Lebanese food and beverages. A must-attend for anyone who loves Arab cuisine and culture. Read more…

4. Assyrian Food Festival

San Jose, August 17-18, 2019
Wine bar, traditional pastries and cafe, heritage exhibits, youth and teen dance performances, and best of all a live band for dancing day and night!

5. Croatian Heritage Festival

San Francisco, October 2019
Live tamburitza music for dance parties and workshops. Sing, dance, and enjoy traditional Croatian cuisine.

6. PolskaFest

San Jose, September 15, 2019
Polish culture celebration with traditional music, song, and dance performances. Polish music by DJ throughout the festival. Read more…

7. Turkish Festival

Monterey, August 3 – 4, 2019
Live traditional music, folk dancing, youth and adult dance performances, and belly dancing at the historic Custom House Plaza. This festival has particularly friendly people, and animals too in the case of the unique breed of Turkish dog on show. Read more…

8. Aloha Races & Polynesian Festival

Santa Cruz, August 18, 2019
Outrigger canoe races, arts and crafts, live traditional music, Hula and Polynesian dance performances. Read more…

9. Diwali Festival

Cupertino, October 12, 2019
The Indian festival of lights celebration with traditional dance and music performances, arts and crafts, fun, frolic, and food. Read more…