Greater St. Louis, Inc. was proud to stand in partnership with the International Institute of St. Louis this weekend to kickoff the annual Festival of Nations, not only one of the metro’s most successful cultural events, but also a reminder of our region’s commitment to welcoming immigrants and refugees to our community.

“We stand in support of our immigrant community and in solidarity with the International Institute of St. Louis to welcome immigrants and refugees to St. Louis with open arms,” said GSL CEO Jason Hall, who joined IISTL’s Arrey Obenson and Moji Sidiqi, St. Louis Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier, and business leader and philanthropist Jerry Schlichter to kick off the Festival from the main stage in Tower Grove Park.

Schlichter, a GSL executive-level investor, has been a driving force behind local efforts to resettle Afghan refugees to St. Louis.

The Festival featured food, music, and art from nearly 100 countries and performances from award-winning performers from around the world. International Institute officials say the festival lineup reflects some of the region's fastest-growing communities. “We are trying to bring out those populations that are here, by giving them an opportunity to be part of the festival, to feel included, to feel welcome and to feel at home,” said Obenson, President of IISTL.

Speaking to the large crowd gathered for the festival’s opening ceremony, Hall took note of several critical developments that have taken place this year to help continue the growth of the metro’s immigrant community.

“In a year when St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones opened the Office of New Americans, the global sport of soccer and CITY SC entered the scene, our partners at Lufthansa connected St. Louis globally, and St. Louis’ business and civic leaders mobilized an unprecedented effort in support of the International Institute’s leadership to resettle Afghan refugees, international immigration to St. Louis increased 150% year-over-year,” said Hall. “Let’s keep it going!”