One World Day: Celebrating Cleveland’s diversity for 75 Years

For more than 75 years, Cleveland has honored its ethnic diversity with One World Day in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. The day was created in 1945 as a celebration for immigrants in Cleveland.

Once an internal celebration between the gardens, the event has become a city-wide phenomenon in the last decade. 

While 2020 marked One Word Day’s 75th anniversary, COVID-19 forced organizer to push the festivities to this year, on Sunday, Aug. 29 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

In its early days, One World Day was celebrated with a small naturalization ceremony for immigrants and ethnic food. Both are still vital to the event, but now take place on a much larger scale.

“A lot has changed since 1945,” says Lori Ashyk, executive director of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. “We now have street performers, vendors, and we’ve even had to make parking arrangements to accommodate everyone.”

Over the years, the food element has expanded beyond each garden featuring food. Today, One World Day features authentic ethnic dishes—the most popular option—as well as food trucks, and ice cream vendors.

Ethnic options include a Hofbrauhaus beer garden in the German Garden, Hungarian food at the Budapest Café in the Hungarian Garden; Bahn Mis in the Vietnamese Garden, and samosas in the India Garden.

“Native foods are what people really come here for,” says Ashyk. “Each of the gardens sells food that represents its native country—homemade baklava from Bulgaria, curry from India, and beef sandwiches from Romania are usually in demand.”

The naturalization ceremony has also become a highly anticipated event. In the past, a judge would stand outside the Cuyahoga Courthouse to grant citizenship. This year, approximately 25 new citizens will be welcomed at 11 a.m. on the center stage of the recently completed Centennial Peace Plaza

From now on, the Peace Plaza will be One World Day’s main venue, and guests will experience it for the first time this year. Following the positive praise the plaza received during the NFL Draft in Cleveland this year, guests are in for a treat.

“This will be our first time in the Centennial Peace Plaza,” says Ashyk. “We were supposed to unveil it in 2020, but we’re excited to make it happen this year.”

Following the ceremony, various acts will perform on stage, including the Singing Angels; Polish, Polynesian, African, Irish, and Chinese nationality dances; the Brazilian Jazz Band, the Cleveland Orchestra, and more.

Perhaps the most notable part of One World Day is the Parade of Flags, which has grown exponentially over the years. Similar to the Olympics’ opening ceremonies, each garden’s flag bearer walks from the Irish Garden to the Italian Garden donned in traditional attire.

More than 40 different cultures will be represented this year, carrying their country’s flags, wearing native garments, and honoring their heritage. 

“The parade of flags has really grown over the years,” says Ashyk. “The contingents vary for each country, but we’re excited to have a wide variety of cultures represented.”

Guest of all ages get a free Passport to Peace, which they take to each of the gardens and participate in free, fun activities to get their Passports stamped. Kids will get a prize for completing their passports.

Additionally, the World Market area offers shopping for international goods like jewelry and clothing.  Other activities include interactive yoga; Middle Eastern Dabke dancing; a Pakistani story hour; a Vietnamese fashion show; Croatian tamburitzas; a Russian children’s piano and talent show; Romanian poetry; African drums; Murphy Irish Dancers; Sho Jo Ji Japanese Dancers; classical and folk Indian dances; and Cleveland City Councilperson Kevin Conwell & The Footprints.

For a full list of activities and events, click here.  

Experience Cleveland’s cultural display on Sunday, August 29 starting at 11 a.m. Admission and parking are free, with shuttles transporting guests throughout the gardens. Attendees are encouraged to go to the Cleveland Metroparks lot near the northern end of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Dana Shugrue
Dana Shugrue

About the Author: Dana Shugrue

Dana Shugrue is a graduate of John Carroll University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media and Professional Writing. She is a full-time Content Specialist at Budget Dumpster, and part-time freelance writer for FreshWater Cleveland. When she’s not writing, you can catch Dana taking a run through the metros or sipping a latte at her favorite local coffee shop.