International Food Festival helps support area

Visitors from all over will have a chance to socialize, eat good food and listen to some top-notch entertainment starting tonight at the annual International Food Fest.

The fest runs through Friday in Ellwood A. Mattson Lower Harbor Park, with fireworks set for dusk on Thursday.

The annual celebration of food, friends and fireworks has become a highlight of the Independence Day celebrations in the county. The sponsor – Marquette County Exchange Club – is looking to make the event’s 28th year at the Lower Harbor the best fest yet.

The club has done a fine job over the years preserving the traditional feel of the event while bringing in new vendors most years to expand the international flavor. This year, a tantalizing menu of Chinese, Italian, Thai, Mexican, Cajun and American food will be on sale from noon to 10:30 p.m. each day.

The musical lineup for 2013 is nearly as eclectic, ranging from country to classical and blues to folk. Adding a new dimension to the festival this year will be a children’s game tent operated by St. Peter Cathedral, which is new this year and Abracadabra Arcade Jumps.

The fest is a boon for the city on many levels. Beyond the fun times, it’s an economic boost to the area, rain or shine, the Food Fest reliably brings thousands of pedestrians through the downtown and into the waterfront district. And the event is a huge benefit to area nonprofits. The Exchange Club donates all net proceeds to nonprofit groups, with more than $750,000 given back so far.

But the International Food Festival is most valuable not as an economic asset, but a social one. The food fest is one of the summer’s best opportunities to get families together. It’s a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones while enjoying outdoor music and fun.

The hard-working volunteers of the Exchange Club deserve kudos for keeping the Food Fest rolling for more than a quarter century.

Its the best way we can think of to celebrate the Fourth – we hope everyone gets a chance to make it to the Lower Harbor this year to join the fun.