Discover a Diverse Des Moines: Upcoming cultural events

Latino Heritage Festival, Sept. 21-22. Photo courtesy Iowa Latino Heritage Festival

For the last decade or so, Greater Des Moines’ immigrant population has been among the fastest growing in the country. The number of foreign-born residents in the metro increased from about 40,000 in 2010 to more than 60,000 a decade later, according to the think tank Heartland Forward.

To celebrate the new ideas and old traditions of newcomers and lifelong residents alike, dsm is hosting a brand-new event called Discover Diverse Des Moines: Festival of Festivals on May 23 at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. It’s a fun sampler of some of the cultural festivals that enliven the city throughout the year, where you can taste new flavors, dance to new beats and even learn a few words in a new language.

Here are just a few of this year’s local festivals you won’t want to miss.

Cinco de Mayo

May 4. Our favorite local Cinco de Mayo festival spices up Historic Valley Junction a day early this year. Head to Railroad Park in West Des Moines for Mexican food, music, artwork and more.

While the day’s original meaning marked the Mexican army’s victory over invading French troops at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, the United States adopted the holiday to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. Valley Junction’s event pays homage to the Mexican workers who helped build the railroads that helped put Valley Junction on the map in the late 1800s.


May 24-25. Traveling for Memorial Day weekend? No need to go very far. You can immerse yourself in the sights, tastes and sounds of Asia without leaving the city during the Iowa Asian Alliance’s annual CelebrAsian weekend. Sample bites from dozens of countries, watch performances of traditional and contemporary music and dance, and shop for anime, jewelry and other cultural items in Western Gateway Park.

Along the way, you can explore the villages representing different Asian cultures, including Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, as well as Hmong and Tai Dam ethnic groups. Different booths showcase their region’s culture through food, entertainment, art and hands-on activities.

Capital City Pride Festival

June 7-9. June is Pride month, and everyone is welcome at Capital City Pride’s PrideFest weekend. Even the family pets can strut their stuff during the pet parade. What started in 1979 as a small march to the Capitol steps has grown into a loud and proud crowd topping 40,000 visitors for a full weekend celebration of the LGBTQ community.

The East Village event features vendors, food, a 5K Pride Stride, and lots of entertainment. Expect to see drag queens and kings, local and regional musicians, and national headliners.

Photo: Joe Crimmings


June 11-19. Juneteenth commemorates the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865. While it’s been celebrated in Iowa for more than a century, it became an official federal holiday in 2021. Several events are planned throughout the city to mark the holiday and celebrate Black history, music, food, art and more.

June 11: Iowa Juneteenth celebration at the State Historical Building

June 13: Community Builders Appreciation Banquet at Drake University

June 15: Neighbor’s Day at Western Gateway Park

June 19: Movie Night at Valley West Mall

Bonus, Oct. 24: Nocturnal Night with Iowa Juneteenth at the Science Center of Iowa

Check online for details about the events and Community Builders award nominations.

World Food & Music Festival

Aug. 23-25. Take a cultural tour through Western Gateway Park during the 20th annual World Food & Music Festival, where you’ll find food and entertainment from more than two dozen countries.

Each food vendor offers $1 or $2 tastes — small versions of the vendor’s most popular dish — so visitors can sample flavors from each culture they encounter. The snacks are perfect for adventurous foodies and picky eaters alike.

Photos courtesy Greater Des Moines Partnership

Latino Heritage Festival

Sept. 21-22. Discover traditions, food and music from Central and South America and the Caribbean, including Aztec, Oaxacan and other Indigenous cultures. As you stroll through Western Gateway Park, you might just be serenaded by Mexican mariachi or a Colombian folk band.

A portion of ticket proceeds are donated to scholarships for Latino students and to organizations that support the Latino community.

Photo courtesy Iowa Latino Heritage Festival


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