International Festival

Established in 1979 as a one day event, this festival celebrates Lawton's Cultural Diversity.

This is a multicultural/family orientated 3-day community wide-event that is held the last full weekend of September.  It's mission is to promotes greater awareness and appreciation of Lawton's diverse heritage. 

Major sponsors are the City of Lawton and the lnternational Festival Committee. The International Festival Committee is a sub-committee of the the Lawton Arts & Humanities Council.

The International Festival Committee invites everyone to monthly festival meetings, open to the public. For meeting location, date and time, call the Arts & Humanities Division at 580-581-3470/3471.

The International Festival Committee can be reached through the Arts & Humanities Division.

 

Visit the Lawton Arts & Humanities Council's page for more information. 

Visit the Arts & Humanities Division's page for contact information.

More information

Rhythms and Reflections; A Mosaic of Southwest Oklahoma Heritage
An Ethnic Exposition Revisited Twenty-five Years Later (Originally published 2004)


According to Russell at Lawton's Firehouse #5, the weather on June 2, 1979 for Lawton's first, "Ethnic Exposition", was as follows; High 76 degrees, Low 59 degrees, and overnight it had rained from 1:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. After all the grant writing, planning, organizing, scheduling, promoting, and late evening meetings, one can only imagine the organizers' concerns for weather, especially Oklahoma weather!

The exposition was born from a desire to promote greater awareness and appreciation of Lawton's diverse heritage. The principle behind the project was the Lawton Public Library with Ms. Katherine Hale and Ms Betty Bochantin as Co-Project Directors. Cameron University's faculty, Dr. Ralph Blodgett, Kenny L. Brown and Dr. George Smith, also assisted in developing the project. Oklahoma Humanities Committee and the National Endowment for the Humanities funded the event.

Otis Spears wrote the participating group's history for the program and Mr. Kenny Brown was the event Moderator. In total, nine ethnic groups participated. They were from Austria, the African Continent, Philippine Islands, Germany, Korea, Latin America, Laos, and Vietnam The Kiowa tribe represented the Native Americans.

Assisting in the event's preparation were City of Lawton employees, the Lawton Chamber of Commerce and its Red Coat Ambassadors, Virgil Hamity and Howard Edwards fabricated the display units, and Curtis Jones coordinated stage's set up, and Luther Christensen, handled the publicity. Yes, due to the weather, there was folk dancing and singing in the Library's reference area! Mrs. Sally Herzig of the Philippine group remembers being a bit nervous for the first performance but that the audience was so warm and appreciative that she soon felt comfortable. The exhibits were setup in the library's conference rooms. About 150 volunteers from the community took part in the exposition with approximately five hundred people in attendance.

Over the next few years, more organizations became involved in sponsoring the event. The Lawton Arts Council became a cosponsor in 1981. In 1982, the event's name was officially changed to "The International Festival". The City of Lawton, Parks and Recreation Department's Arts and Humanities Division was added as cosponsor in 1983. That year the Lawton Arts and Humanities council created a special Board of Directors to organize and oversee the Festival. The International Festival was expanded to two days in 1986 and eventually became a three-day event.

Debra Burch at Lawton's Chamber of Commerce commented that, "Today's International Festival is a major contributor to Lawton's economy and adds greatly to the city's tourist base that builds upon it's self." Last year the Arts and Humanities Division reported that the event's attendance was over thirty thousand visitors. As Carolyn Pate, a Friends of the Library member said, "Great things from a small grant!"

From its inception, artwork has been used to set the tone of the festival's theme. The program's first design utilized prairie grass and ribbon banners. Poster competitions followed and the artist's design was used on clothing, maps, and promotional items. Kealii Thompson, a festival volunteer for seventeen-years, feels that the posters reflect our city and nation's changing times.

Most important is that the festival could not go on without support from federal, state, and local private and public sponsors and volunteers. To operate the three-day event alone, takes a volunteer staff working over 700 man-hours! That does not include the volunteer hours spent planning and organizing. Today, a family tradition of International Festival volunteerism runs strong for many of the original volunteers from staff to entertainers. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Herzig family is now represented by three generations of service. Other familiar names from the original performers and volunteers that continue to this day are the Leal's, Chavez's, Thompson's, Waldbauer's, and many more. Many agree that the festival not only showcases Lawton's diversity but also and more importantly provides the opportunity to bring together cultures together and foster a sense of community among them.

In looking back, from the very first "Ethnic Exposition" to today's 25th International Festival, all agree on one thing . . . the original focus, intent, and passion of the festival remains unchanged, unlike our Oklahoma weather.

Headliners - Past International Festivals

 

1999 - Khenany, music of Latin America; Los Caballeros, a local Tejano group; James Gilyard Ensemble, jazz from the Dallas area; Russian Kaleidoscope from Kansas City; Bhattacharyas from Lawton, The 77th Army Band from Fort Sill; and Ragas & Bayas from Lawton.

 

2000 - Michael Kern, with folk, jazz, and blues; Queen Anne’s Lace, Accapella Renaissance & Big Band; Donald Knaack the Junkman, with Junk music from a variety of styles and grooves; Polka Kings, German music; Steel Drum Band from Wichita Falls and Shati, Caribbean music.

 

2003 - Richard Hight w/Visual Mpact, Glen Roads Irish Band, Avizo Band, Ed Gary and the Louisiana Cajun Aces from Baton Rouge, Sky Shivers and the Rockin’ Horse Ranch

 

2004 - Polka Kings, Bamboula, Wayanay Inka, & Banish Misfortune

 

2005 - Polka Kings, OK Panhandlers, Watusi, Panorama, Broken Walls Visual Impact w/ Richard Heights, & Johny Summers

 

2006 - Beyond the Pale, Brave Combo, Carlos Guedes Trio, Dallas Czech Orchestra, ZAP! Zany Arts Players Prime Time Mime Players, Zorya Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Polka Kings, Chairman of the Chord

 

2007 - Red Dawn Blues Band, American Indian Blues; OSU Trombone Choir; Polka Kings, German Folk and Rock; The New Plainsmen Quartet, Kumaasi, African Ensemble; Alma Folkloric de Oklahoma, Award-winning Mexican Folk group; Micheal Merrill, US music; and Arabesque, World Music with Puppets

 

2008 - Needfire (Celtic Rock), Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers, Under the Influence (Southern Rock/Country), Beyond the Pale (Celtic), Polka Kings (German polkas & rock), Arabesque World Music & Puppet, Blood Washed Blues Band, & LAAND (Greek)

 

2009 - Joseph Vincelli Band (Jazz), Needfire (Celtic Rock), Maren Morris (Southern Rock), Son del Barrio (Caribbean & Latin), Brave Combo (Grammy Award-Winning), Mariachi Orgullo de America & David G. Wonders of Tract & Friends

 

2010 - Needfire (Celtic Rock), Tin Can Phone (Reggae Rock), Tejas Brothers (Tex/Mex Southern Rock/Country), Southern Drive (Red Dirt Music/Southern Rock), & David G. Wonders of Tract & Friends

 

2011 - Needfire (Celtic Rock), Tekumbe' (Colombia & Latin), Del Castillo (Latin Fusion of Rock, Blues, and Flamenco), Sugarfree Allstars (Children's Concert), Teresa Black, Oklahoma Storyteller & Singer), & David G. Wonders

 

2012 - Needfire (Celtic Rock), Mikel & Bloodwashed Bles Band (Blues/Rock), Del Castillo (Latin Fusion of Rock, Blues, and Flamenco), Samantha Rose (Country, Pop, & Rock), Teresa Black, Oklahoma Storyteller & Singer), & David G. Wonders

 

2013 - Arbuckle Xpress (Country/Rock), Mike Griffin (Blues), Son del Barrio (Caribbean & Latin), & International Festival Dance with DJ

 

2014 - Brave Combo (Nuclear Polka & World Music), The Dirty River Boys (Rock/American) & Matt Stansberry & The Romance

 

2015 - Crosstown Groove and 77th US Army Band

 

2016 - Watusi Friday Night and unfortunately Tequila Azul and DJ Steve scheduled to perform Saturday but cancelled due to thunderstorms

OFFICERS & INDIVIDUALS

Bobbi Whitson, Chair

Mark Sprague, Vice Chair

Molly Buckley

Jamie Price

Kealii Thompson

Dory Thomas, Lawton Arts & Humanities Council Represenative

Allison Offield, Lawton Arts & Humanities Council Representative

 

ORGANIZATIONS

Rosalind Asetamy, American Indian Club

Ben Nededog, Chamorro Society

Dinah Lazarte, Filipino American Association of Lawton/Ft. Sill

Isidra Chavez, Mexican Folkoric Dancers

 
Visit here for more information about the Lawton Arts & Humanities Council and its other committees.

Brochure Ad Sales/ Sponsorships Committee 

  • Duties are to solicit brochure ad sales and sponsorships.


Marketing / Publicity Committee

  • Research and contact cultural groups and organizations to perform and have vendor booths at festival.  
  • Distribute promotional materials.   

 

Children's Area Committee

  • Coordinate IF Children’s Area with games and activities.
  • Recruit and schedule volunteers to work in area during festival.  
  • Decorate Children’s Tent.


Interactive Area Manager

  • Recruit individuals/groups for area.  
  • Prepare schedule of activities.  
  • Ensure all equipment needs are met.  
  • Serve as Stage Manager during scheduled activities.


Street Dance Committee

  • Coordinate and execute all aspects of Street Dance.


2nd Street (South) and Lake Helen (North) Stage Managers

  • Recruit volunteers:  assistant stage manager, stage crew, and emcees.  
  • Early September meet with performers and crew.  
  • Work with audio/tech crew on keeping performance schedule running smoothly.
  • Greet & check-in performers.  
  • Clean stage between performances.
  • Monitor dressing area, ice chest, and water supply.  
  • Emcee and announce sponsors as needed.


Information Booth Committee

  • Recruit volunteers to cover the booth during the festival (4 - 8 volunteers per shift).
  • Supervise the booth during the festival.  
  • Decorate information booths.  
  • Research sales items for booth and work with staff to order items prior to festival.

 

Volunteers Committee

  • Recruit and supervise volunteers to do the following. 
    •  Hand out brochures.
    • Conduct patron surveys.
    • Inform patrons of, “NO PETS”, coolers or ice chests policies when necessary.
    • Direct traffic to areas of interest by using the site map.
    • Assist with parking and directing traffic as needed.
    • Assist with stages as needed
    • Assist with Information Booth
    • Decorate information booths.
    • Sell balloons 

 

Decorations Committee

  • Coordinate decorations for festival site; create new decorations if needed.  
  • Decorate festival site prior to festival opening.  
  • Ensure that signs are posted in the correct places around the festival site.  
  • Remove all decorations after the festival is over.

 

Tree Decorating 

  • Individuals or organizations are responsible for decorating a tree.
  • Coordinate volunteers to hang lights in designated area of the festival site.
  • Remove all lights once the festival is over.

 

Volunteer Entertainment Selection Committee (also comprised of stage managers)

  • Recruit and solicit volunteer performing groups.
  • June/July jury performer applications.
  • Work with staff on scheduling performers as needed.    

 

Beer Booth

  • Recruit volunteers to cover the booth during the festival (3 - 4 volunteers per shift).  
  • Supervise the booth during the festival.  
  • Ensure ID’s are being checked

 

Drink Booths

  • Recruit volunteers to cover the booth during the festival (3 - 4 volunteers per shift).
  • Supervise the booth during the festival.  

2017 International Festival

September 22-24, Click for more information

Gypsy Dancers Intl Group