Posted on Aug. 19
If you came to the Ignite Global Street Food and Fire Festival on August 13th, you know it was all quite delicious, raucous —and incendiary! (Click here to see photos of the event.) For us, beyond the Pokemango pepper ice cream, cactus juice and paella, the most delicious thing about the event was… the diversity.
Mixing it up
It’s estimated that, over the course of the evening, 7,000 people gathered to enjoy a festival that reflected one of Somerville’s most exciting characteristics: the global mix. The festival featured not only the Boston Circus Guild’s fire throwers, but also Brazilian dancers, Mexican traditional dance courtesy of the Xuchipilli Folkloric Ballet, Japanese Taiko drummers, and even an Armenian blowtorch sugar artist! The attendees were diverse too, just check out here the beautiful photos taken over at the Wild Eye Photo Booth over the course of the evening.
“More than in any other festival, Ignite truly reflects not only the cultural heterogeneity in Somerville, but also the community interest to experience and celebrate food, dancing, and different sources of entertainment from across the globe” says Mexico native, Memo Cedeno, one of the dozens of festival volunteers.
Past the lines of folks lined up to buy food from Indian restaurants like Dosa-n-Curry and India Palace, we ran into Mariana Paes from Rio de Janeiro, who attended the festival by the first time. “What a wonderful way of spending a hot Saturday summer night!” she exclaimed. “We are excited to see the fire throwers but in the mean time, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to eat coxinha, (Brazilian chicken croquettes) and drink sugar cane juice!”
Ignite & the Local Economy
Carolina Salinas, a Nibble entrepreneur originally from Venezuela, taught festival- goers how to make the perfect masa to cook arepas during the cooking demos. “I’m grateful to see how people from different cultures are interested in learning more about arepas,” said Salinas, who, along with her partner Carolina García, sold over 400 arepas during the event, making it their most successful festival to date.
Arepas weren’t the only hot food item. All the food vendors —the majority Union Square restaurants — racked up impressive sales. La Cantina Mexicana and Pikliz, a Caribbean restaurant, sold out more than four hundred dishes each, and Casa B had an outstanding record-breaking night, selling around one thousands dishes.
Aaron Cohen, Gracie’s Ice-cream owner reports, “Because of Ignite, we beat our record sales day by over 40%. These events not only bring new people from outside the Square, more importantly, they bring the greater neighborhood down as well. The vastly increased foot traffic results in more people finding out about our business, and possibly trying it out for the first time. We’re grateful for the opportunity to participate in this extremely beneficial community event,” he added.
On a similar note, Joe Carreriro from El Potro restaurant told us, “The festival allows us to run promotions and specials, and introduce customers to new products, and makes people want to return to the area again when there is not a festival.” The Independent also offered specials, including an Ignite-inspired “Fire Walk With Me” cocktail, a house-infused Chinese 5 Spice Rum, Thai chili pepper, Orgeat, triple sec, and fresh lime juice. “We were glad to see people everywhere, even when the festival finished,” an Independent staffer noted.
A local chef who took part in the festival cooking demos was Jose Garcia, the owner of Ebi Sushi. Garcia, a Guatemalan native who has picked up some Japanese along the way, talked about the culinary diversity that exists in the neighborhood, and how they felt proud to be part of it. Then emcee Rachel Strutt of the Somerville Arts Council added, “This event aims to spur cultural economic development and, as a result, help preserve the international flavor of Union Square. We hope people who come to the square tonight, keep coming back to support the local markets and restaurants.”
And the numbers we’re most proud of…
Throughout the night, we held a food drive, to benefit the Somerville Homeless Coalition. Organized by the Arts Council’s culinary coordinator Nick Schonberger, the food donations grew and grew during the festival as more people brought over food. Ultimately 400 products were donated, including, canned tuna, peanut butter and pasta. Thank you all for your donations; together let’s make sure that all Somervillians have food security!
Cultural economy numbers on the state scale
The Ignite festival and the Nibble culinary initiative are part of the Somerville Arts Council’s ArtsUnion project, which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Adams Arts Program and the City of Somerville. Since its launch in 2005, the Adams Arts Program has invested $9.4 million in more than 100 projects statewide, from Pittsfield to Provincetown, involving more than 950 nonprofit organizations, businesses, and local governments. Adams-funded projects have raised more than $27 million in matching funds, making for a combined investment in the Massachusetts creative economy of nearly $38 million.
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