History of the Lorain International Festival

Lorain: An International City

Lorain can truly be called a "melting pot" community because of the many different nationality groups which have settled in this city. Before 1893, most of the settlers in Lorain were of New England stock. They were generally professional or business people or supervisors for the few industries located here. Other settlers were immigrants from northern and western Europe and Blacks who first came to Lorain in 1866. When the Johnson Steel Company was built in 1894, skilled workers, eager for jobs because of the 1893 depression, came to the area from all parts of the United States.

By 1900, a labor scarcity occurred. The steel company, needing more workers, imported foreign labor. Until World War I, the Germans, Scotch, Irish, Italians and Spanish were the leading immigrants. Immediately preceding 1914, Poles, Hungarians, Slavs, and Greeks came in large numbers. After World War I, immigration was greatest from Mexico and following World War II, many Puerto Ricans settled in the area.

The people who came to Lorain from the British Isles and from Germany settled in all sections of the city, but others settled in compact groups. There were many reasons for this. The established families helped the new arrivals adjust to their new environment. They helped them get jobs, learn the English language and the customs of America. By banding together, the various nationalities were also able to preserve their own language and customs. Often churches were erected in the communities reflecting the ethnicity of the neighborhood.

Today, Lorain is truly a "melting pot" community where people from more than fifty-five different nationalities live, work and play together. As a tribute to this community, the citizens of Lorain salute their heritage by holding a week long International Festival each summer.

The first International Festival, held in 1967, began a tradition of honoring the rich and colorful customs of the many nationalities that make up Lorain. Although all the nationality groups celebrate throughout the festival week, each year one specific ethnic group is highlighted.

The International Festival begins with a parade down Broadway and ends with a three-day bazaar. At the bazaar, people sample foods of many lands and enjoy ethnic song and dance performances.

In addition to the parade and bazaar, the festival usually includes a breakfast, concerts, sporting events, lectures and displays. An International Queen is also selected from dozens of International Princesses who represent the various ethnic groups. The queen and princesses serve as official festival hostesses.

Since 2003 the Festival has been held at Black River Landing.  In 2006 the Lorain Port Authority's construction of an outdoor stage was completed in time for that summer's Festival performances.