The seeds of the International Food and Music Festival were first planted in 2002 with the arrival of a missionary pastoral team from Missionhurst CICM. To bring us together and ignite a new spark of life in our church community, Father Charles Phukuta Khonde suggested a festival based on the food of our parishioners' diverse backgrounds. And since we wanted a fun atmosphere, we complemented the food booths with games, cultural dances, music and a raffle. The location chosen for the event was ambitious - downtown Wendell at the J. Ashley Wall Towne Square. What a leap of faith to organize such a large event right in the middle of town. We were either going to succeed or fail in spectacular fashion, right in front of everybody!
The first International Food Festival was held in September 2003, after months of planning, preparation and hundreds of volunteer hours. God blessed us with a sunny day and a great crowd. More importantly, our church came together, grew stronger and made a great impact on the town of Wendell and the surrounding area.
Over the years some changes have been made to the festival, including the addition of many more food booths, a silent auction, and improved kids games. In 2008, a major commitment was made to enhance the festival by adding more notable musical entertainment and re-naming the event The International Food and Music Festival. Since that year we've had wonderful local, national and international artists grace the stage, including Unity Award winner Jaime Cortez (Best Spanish Album), and Dove Award nominee Jonny Diaz (New Artist of the Year). Every year attendance grows, and in 2011 the festival was a "Best Local Festival" nominee in Triangle East Magazine.
Responding to the local economic conditions, 2009 saw the inclusion of a food drive to benefit the food panty at Wendell United Methodist Church. The success of this food drive has made it an ongoing part of the festival; and the donations are gratefully received and distributed locally.
The festival has become a wonderful family event enjoyed by people from Wendell the surrounding areas. There truly is something for everyone. Food. Music. Dancing. Games, Silent Auction. Raffle. Food Drive. Besides rebuilding a strong church community and establishing a bond with the larger local community, there is a benefit from all the hard work in that any proceeds from the festival have advanced the outreach of the church, including local and global community donations to Missionhurst, Hurricane Katrina Relief, Tsunami Aid, Catholic Charities and Triangle East Fellowship of Churches, to name a few. We give thanks to God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon the parishioners of Saint Eugene, the community of Wendell and to all who are a part of the International Food and Music Festival