A friendly greeting in a language you don't understand, exotic spice combinations you've never tried before, old melodies that are new to you, and steps that have been danced for hundreds of years -- the sights, sounds and tastes of world travel are priceless ... yet somehow they still take a bite out of your bank account.
There is a place to experience world cultures without a long plane ride or a big bill: Bountiful/Davis Summerfest International.
Bountiful/Davis Summerfest International brings international musicians and dancers to Bountiful City Park, at 200 W. 400 North, with visual arts displays and ethnic foods. The festival starts with performances 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, and continuing all day Friday, Aug. 10, and Saturday, Aug. 11 Admission is free.
Folks who can't wait to start their cultural journey can take part in the free Street Dance, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, on Bountiful's Main Street between 100 South and Center Street. Each group of folk dancers will perform a dance or two, and audience members are often invited to learn the traditional steps.
The dance is being combined with the StreetFeast, an event formerly known as Taste of the Town, offering the chance to taste specialties from local restaurants. Food tickets cost $1, 6 for $5, or 12 for $10, with most items taking between one and five tickets.
In addition to American foods, there will be South African cuisine, Japanese and Polynesian island treats, and Chinese "chewing drinks."
Bountiful/Davis Summerfest International started in 1974, as an art festival. The international performances were added in 1988, with dancers and musicians coming from a variety of countries each year. This year, there are eight groups, coming from seven countries.
"They represent five continents, so we have a pretty good representation of world culture," said Emma Dugal, executive director of the Bountiful/Davis Art Center, adding, "I don't think we have any groups coming this year that are repeat groups."
Gulun will perform traditional ceremonial dances of the native people of Siberia, and natives of the Russian Far East and North. The name "Gulun," means "bonfire" in the language of the Even people of Siberia.
Grupo de Danzas Folkloricas Carmen Lopez is made up of 40 dancers and musicians, performing dances from the cultural regions of Colombia.
Costa Rica is represented by Asociacion Folklorica Escazucena.
Croatia's Folk Dance Ensemble Sesvetska Sela specializes in the traditional cultures of the "old Croats." In addition to the dancers, the group features musicians who play traditional instruments, such as the lijerica, dangubica, samica, dvojnice, diple, gajde bagpipe, dude, and sopile Istrian long flute.
Two French folk groups will be at Summerfest. Lous Cigalouns de Mourseuns was started as a choir in 1941, in Morcenx, to raise funds to help prisoners of war in Nazi camps. After the war, the group switched to folk dance performances. La Jouvenco de Mont-Favet was started in 1969, and focuses on the traditions of Provence. The group performs ballroom, harvest, military, and shepherd dances, in costumes made to look like those worn in the late 1700s.
The festival also includes folk dancers and music from India, performed by the group Rangpuhar, which translates to "burst of color."
Indonesia's performers are students from Pelita Harapan University. The group, Bireun Seudati, practices twice a week to learn every dance in Indonesia.
Opening ceremonies for the festival start at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, in Bountiful City Park. The ceremonies include music by the Wasatch & District Pipe Band, based in Bountiful, and a Parade of Nations. Closing ceremonies, at 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 11, feature American Indian dancers.
A second venue at the park, called the Sound Stage, puts the focus on musicians. In addition to the groups that accompany the dancers from each country, local Utah musicians perform everything from Irish harp to acoustic folk and American Indian flute. There will also be storytellers.
Visual arts are still a big part of the festival. The World Traditions tent and World Market include everything from wearable fiber art and silver work to pottery and painted gourds. Artisans will be on hand to demonstration how to make traditional arts and crafts.
Featured artists this year are Paul Twitchell, Yevgeniy Zolotsev, Nile Fahmy and Seth Garner.
Twitchell, of Roy, studied botany and zoology at Weber State University. He puts his degree to work in his artwork, creating watercolor paintings of landscapes and fish and wildlife.
Zolotsev is the featured international artist. He lives in Murray, but is originally from Russia. One of his colorful paintings has been used to design a T-shirt to be sold at this year's festival.
Nile Fahmy, from Salt Lake City, is the featured artisan.
"He makes things out of various items, as a tinker would," said Dugal. "He has an interesting background, with Irish-Egyptian parentage, but he is American."
He uses salvaged metal to make jewelry, housewares and sculptures.
Seth Garner, a Centerville student at Bountiful's Viewmont High School, is this year's featured emerging artist. He won the best of show award at the Bountiful/Davis Art Center's high school exhibit.
Food vendors at the international festival will be serving up Thai food, Tibetan food, Italian ice, Southern barbecue, Navajo tacos and more. There will even be Tornado Fries, spiral-cut potatoes cooked on a skewer. Of course, if you want a hot dog or snow cone, those will be available, too.
In the kids art yard, young festival-goers can learn more about the cultures of some of the visiting dancers and musicians by creating crafts related to their countries.
The festival also has a bocce court. The lawn game, played in many European and American countries, started in Egypt in about 5000 B.C. Visitors are welcome to play a game on the Bountiful/Davis Summerfest International bocce court for free, but donations would be appreciated.