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International cultural fest returns to Rexburg

The Rexburg Chamber of Commerce will hold the 31st annual Dance and Music Festival, also known as Idaho International Summerfest, from July 6 to July 16.

Ted Austin, the CEO and president of the Rexburg Chamber of Commerce, said the event was previously called the Dance and Music Festival, so they continue to use that as a subtitle for Summerfest because a lot of people around this area know it as a dance festival.

“It is probably east Idaho’s largest cultural experience,” Austin said. “We invite performing teams from all over the world to come to Rexburg, and they are actually here for about 10 days but have a week                                                of performances.”

This year’s festival targets youth and young families as well as traditional audiences, according to the       Summerfest website.

“They have youth cultural events,” Austin said. “This is when local youth are invited and the teams teach them dances which they get to perform on stage with the performers; thus, there is a lot of great interaction with the youth of our community.”

Austin said some of the events are free and some are ticketed events.

“Because the festival has been around for so long, it is very well recognized around the world, and we have a lot of teams or performers who have come here before and want to return to perform,” Austin said.

Austin said a popular thing during this festival is the street event that occurs on Monday, July 11. He said several blocks of the street in downtown Rexburg are closed down, and the teams or performers come and perform while vendors sell along the street.

“Everyone from the community is invited,” Austin said. “It’s a free event, so come down and have fun.”

Mckenna Frisby, a junior studying psychology, attended Summerfest last year.

“It was a really good event last year,” Frisby said. “It was interesting to see all the dancing and performances.”

Frisby said she was surprised to see performers from all over the world come to Rexburg for such an event. She said she is excited for this years event.

Austin said performers from previous years request to come back, and others are requested by the Chamber of Commerce.

“Rexburg is a great community,” Austin said. “These team members or performers are housed in personal homes, they are not put up in hotels or motels, so people in the Rexburg, Rigby and St. Anthony area volunteer to have performers come into their home, and those families get a real tremendous experience because, in some cases, some of these performers don’t even speak English.”

Austin said typically, the Chamber of Commerce has team guides and interpreters with the teams, but when they are in the homes of the families that host them, those interpreters or guides are not with them.

“This year, there are six countries participating in the event,” Austin said. “We have a Polynesian team, a team from India, a Canadian team that is actually French Canadian, a team from the U.S., a team from Puerto Rico, and one that was here several years ago and wanted to come back is a team from Russia.”

Austin said these host families still have children at home, so it is a great opportunity for them as a family to be introduced to different cultures from around the world.

Austin said they are continuing to recruit host families. He said that as of now, they are about 10 families short of having enough to house all the performers.

Austin said the proceeds from sponsorship dollars, as well as ticket sales, go to help fund the Rexburg Chamber of Commerce.

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