Eat food from 25 countries at the Des Moines World Food & Music Festival this month

todayAugust 16, 2023 2

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World Food & Music Festival

Western Gateway Park — 11 a.m., Friday, Aug. 25 through 5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 27, Free

2022 World Food & Music Festival in Des Moines. — Sid Peterson/Little Village

Des Moines World Food & Music Festival is coming early this year, as the 2023 celebration moves from its usual September spot to an August appointment.

The festival kicks off Friday, Aug. 25 at 11 a.m. with a naturalization ceremony — during which 100 individuals will gain U.S. citizenship — and from there offers more programming running through the weekend, treating attendees to a wide array of events, activities and foods.

Nearly two decades since the festival first began in 2005, the Des Moines World Food & Music Festival returns to Western Gateway Park for another summer of songs and diverse dishes.

“We have 55 food vendors this year [representing] 25 different countries and 19 [vendors] are new,” said Amelia Klatt, the special events and project manager with the Greater Des Moines Partnership, which organizes the festival. Klatt noted that, though these food vendors are diverse in the cuisine they prepare, most are Iowa-based.

“There are a few that travel and make the festival rounds — but about 85-90 percent are from the Central Iowa-area, so it’s a great way to support local businesses,” Klatt added.

Among those vendors is Tullpa (3708 Merle Haye Road), a Peruvian restaurant that’s new to the Food & Music Festival this year, having come up through the Sparks DSM Incubator program.

Started in 2022, the program is intended to spotlight and support small businesses in the Des Moines area.

“It started at the Farmers Market and has just kind of grown and flourished,” Klatt said of Sparks DSM. “It basically focuses on minority businesses and helping them establish a business clientele, learn the best business for the area and get exposure.”

Also on the menu for the 2023 festival are things like the Cultural Activity Pavilion which showcases arts and crafts, games and cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend.

Adventure Tents will provide visitors with the opportunity to try food from around the world, every hour of the festival’s three days. Among these vendors is a candy tent and, conversely, a fruit tent, boasting some rare and exotic options.

A Chopped-style cooking competition is also scheduled for Sunday morning.

“It’ll be a cooking challenge where contestants are judged by local celebrities to see who has the best dish,” said Klatt of that event. “We’ll provide a basket of ingredients that is sourced from the Farmers Market and [contestants] have to come up with a dish.”

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A “special ingredient” from the Des Moines market is likely to find its way into the competition, Klatt hinted.

As far as the music half of the Food & Music Festival, the weekend will include a total of 15 mainstage acts, with many more on the Cultural Stage.

A 2022 World Food & music Festival vendor smoking meats. – Sid Peterson/Little Village

Friday’s headliner is Flor de Toloache. This all woman, mariachi band has been performing since 2008, and in 2017, the group earned a Latin Grammy Award for Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album with their release Las Caras Lindas. The group’s self-titled 2015 album was nominated, but not awarded, in the same category in 2015.

On Saturday, the Chicago Afrobeat Project takes the mainstage. A 14-piece, Chicago-based music project drawing from music styles across the African-diaspora, Chicago Afrobeat formed in 2002 and, since then, has continued to experiment and morph. The Chicago Tribune acknowledged the group’s What Goes Up album as one of the 10 best Chicagoland indie releases of 2017.

Outside of these two headliners, most of the musical performances this year come from area musicians. Heath Alan, EleanorGrace, BYOBrass, Sharane Calister (of The Voice season 14 fame), Mind@Large (a new group from Ryan Jeter, a founding member of Euforquestra), teen/tween band S.A.F.E., Guitarras ATM, Sonny Side Up (who will bring a special Bosnian music set to the fest), Royce Johns, cover band Suëde — Iowa performers representing a diverse array of genres and cultures, according to Klatt.

“Every act is very different, and this also goes for our Cultural Stage, which is a different feel than the mainstage,” she said. “It has different dances, different instruments being played. It truly is a worldly experience.”

This year, Klatt said, marks the first time the Greater Des Moines Partnership has tagged the Des Moines Music Coalition—which organizes 80/35 and other music festivals — to select acts for this year’s lineup.

Free to attend, more information about this year’s Des Moines Food & Music Festival can be found at

Isaac Hamlet is Little Village’s Arts Editor. This article was originally published in Little Village‘s August 2023 issue.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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