Find all the world along one street

The diversity around Fourth Plain Boulevard shines at annual festival

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



If you want a sense of the multicultural diversity of Vancouver’s Fourth Plain Village area, go say hello to the staff at Julia Bakery.

Behind the sweet, decadent smell of fresh pastries and breads, you’ll find a Mexican baker, a Persian clerk, a Bosnian cleaner and the Croatian store owner, Nenad Indic.

“My staff is very international,” Indic said, smiling as he collected a pile of specialty cookies for some young patrons at the small store at 2614 Fort Vancouver Way.

Fourth Plain International Festival Events

10 a.m. — Festival opens.

11 a.m. — One of a Kind Drumline

Noon — Olincalli Folkloric Group - Hispanic Dance Group

1 p.m. — Mayor Tim Leavitt and Commissioner Steve Stuart

1:15 p.m. — Sabor Latino - Latin Dancer Group

2 p.m. — Kaleinani o Ke Kukui, Hawaiian dance group.

3 p.m. — Mike Hart, contemporary singer.

4 p.m. — Grupo Conchero Danza Azteca Tonantzin, Aztec drum group.

5 p.m. — Maharlika, Filipino dance group.

6 p.m. — Alghawazee, belly dance troupe.

If you go

What: Fourth Plain International Festival.

When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 9.

Where: Warriors Field, corner of Fourth Plain Boulevard and Norris Road.

Cost: Free.

More information:

The bakery is one of several multicultural vendors that have signed on for Saturday’s second annual Fourth Plain International Festival, a food and entertainment-focused event aimed at highlighting diversity in that part of the city.

“The high school that serves that area, the kids speak 56 different languages at home,” said Mark Maggiora, an organizer for the event and executive director of Americans Building Community Inc. “Some of the larger groups are Asian, Hispanic, Eastern European and many Pacific Islanders.”

Food vendors will include Mexican, Salvadorean, Eastern European, Chinese and Thai restaurants, along with more typical festival offerings of hot dogs, shaved ice and coffee.

Organizers have encouraged the merchants to keep prices for all items at under $5, Maggiora said.

“A lot of the folks that live in the area don’t have the means to go to expensive festivals elsewhere — this is sort of a working man’s festival,” he said.

This year the organizers expanded the number of performances by local music and dance groups, said Kevin Hiebert, another organizer with Americans Building Community.

“Last year, we didn’t just have food, but we called it the International Food Festival,” said Hiebert, who’s Canadian. “this year we just decided to call it the International Festival. We’ll have more entertainment, and we’ll have a whole new area for businesses, nonprofits and community groups.”

The event will also include a dunk tank, children’s climbing wall and games for families.

Entertainment will include a drumline, belly-dancers, Aztec drummers, and Hispanic, Hawaiian, Filipino and Latin dance groups.

Welcoming newcomers

Several factors led to the vast diversity of Fourth Plain’s population, Maggiora added.

“I call it the thirds mix,” Maggiora said. “About a third settled here during World War II after working here, a third came after that from various immigrant opportunities and a third are people temporarily here that are moving through.”

The area has a reputation for being friendly to newcomers, he added.

“Washington, compared to Oregon, has been a little more receptive when it comes to diverse populations,” Maggiora said. “And when people find a home they like, they sometimes call back to where they came from and tell their friends or relatives, ‘Hey, this place works well.’”

Still, the generally lower-income neighborhoods along Fourth Plain have struggled to create a positive reputation in the city.

One of the goals of the festival is to transform the image of the area, he said.

“The challenges for these merchants is, given the multicultural mix, how do you do business with the Anglo culture?” Maggiora said. “Some don’t care because they have plenty of customers from their own culture. But broadening the customer base is good for any business. And the key piece of this is to give people exposure to these places and hopefully bring some customers back to the stores.”

Indic, who said Croatia is “the most beautiful country in the world,” moved to Vancouver 13 years ago because of wars raging across his homeland.

While he misses the coastal areas of his country, he said he also has fallen in love with his new home and plans to stick around.

He opened Julia Bakery four years ago. The store sells a variety of traditional Italian, French and German breads, but Indic also likes to introduce people to some of the specialty breads of Croatia when he gets a chance.

At the festival he will sell Povetica, a sweet bread with walnut and apple filling that is often eaten on special occasions in his country, he said.

“On the coast, people weren’t very rich and they’d use it to celebrate, particularly in the eastern part of the country,” Indic said.

Last year, the budget-friendly International Festival was a hit — and turnout surpassed even their wildest expectations, Maggiora and Hiebert said.

“We had over 2,000 people come, and we only expected about 200,” Maggiora said. “There was so much demand that some of the merchants had to run back to their shops to resupply because they ran out of food. This year we’re more prepared.”

Indic said his bakery stand at the festival will be well stocked for visitors who want to stop by — and he hopes people from all cultures will feel welcome to visit by his store.

“Last year I didn’t bring plenty of stuff and I sold out, but this year we’re going to be ready,” Indic said. “Last year was unbelievably successful. I was a bit skeptical at first, but it really is a great thing.”