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On July 12, the first annual International Festival kicked off at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo. The two-day event opened at noon and offered diverse opportunities for community engagement and fun. More than 200 exhibitors and 50 retail and food vendors participated. Festival goers lined the street as international parade dancers marched and twirled in colorful costumes. Featured entertainment began in the early afternoon and extended into the evening.

Internationally known and locally respected entertainers captured the attention of attendees of all ages. Latin, Caribbean, Ethiopian and African American artists performed on the main stage. The Pedrito Martinez Band, Estelle, Theophilus London, Third World, TLC, Ludacris, Miri Ben-Ari, Byron Cage and many more entertainers performed. Music lovers stood in front of the stage. Music lovers in front of the stage danced and sang lyrics as artists across various music genres made it difficult to sit quietly through memorable performances. International diversity inspired some attendees to explore other cultures. Fellow attendees exhibited togetherness and tolerant behavior.

Behind the scenes, Tomiko Thomas and a public relations team took many measures to facilitate media interviews in the press room. Thomas is the CEO and senior publicist of Platinum Image Entertainment Group. After performers exited the stage, media questioned talent about their International Festival performance, experiences and upcoming projects.

Question and answer sessions also awakened interest in local talent, such as Wayna. The Ethiopian-born singer-songwriter resides in Prince George’s County and is an independent artist. She reportedly began pursuing music full-time after working as a writer in the White House for the Clinton Administration. The ambassador for Music Unites Africa has opened for internationally known artists during the D.C. leg of their tours. She spoke to the media about how she carved out her niche within the R&B scene.

“This is my first international festival. This is huge. This is so big. I am originally from Ethiopia, but I do love my soul music, gospel and R&B. My first two projects were R&B. On my last project, I embraced the sounds of my youth, and the sounds of my cultural background. Doing that has opened up opportunities like this,” Wayna said.

Health screenings, credit counseling, mortgage relief assistance, cooking demonstrations and a job fair were some of the many resources that were available during the family event. Award-winning teenage entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, jewelry designer and bestselling author, Gabrielle Jordan Williams shared an empowering message about dreaming big. Public health goals were addressed while offering a blend of education and empowerment. Baltimore-based London Johnson reminded attendees to remain active as she led an energetic Zumba demonstration. On the other side of the Empowerment Pavilion, a drinking water opinion poll allowed attendees to vote on which water bottle labels were most appealing to them, in preparation for a county campaign. Empowerment Zones were created to help close the disparity gaps around health and wellness, science, technology, engineering, arts and math education, and economic empowerment of historically disadvantaged communities. A 5-kilometer run and 1.25-kilometer walk was held July 13.