A major culture shock is hitting the downtown Phoenix area this weekend with Phoenix Sister Cities kicking off its sixth annual WorldFEST celebration.

Phoenix Sister Cities, a non-profit organization, hosts a festival every year to celebrate multiculturalism. The three-day celebration starts Friday, March 18, from 4 to 10 p.m. with a World of Beers event, which includes more than 50 brews from all over the globe.

"This festival celebrates Phoenix's sister cities and gives recognition to other cultures in our area." said Paula West, director of Phoenix Sister Cities.

Live entertainment, including performances by PowerDrive, Steve Ansel & Jackson Street Band and The Elevens, will take place all three days on the SRP WorldSTAGE.

Main events on Saturday and Sunday, March 19-20, include KidzWorld and Sister Cities Village from noon to 5 p.m.

"Saturday and Sunday are really the family days," West said. "There are so many activities that anyone can enjoy from young children to their grandparents."

KidzWorld is an interactive playground where children travel to all seven continents and engage in activities based on the area they visit, West said. Children go through and get passports stamped and receive gifts once their passports have been filled.

Sister Cities Village is a series of booths comprised by volunteers for the nine different Phoenix Sister Cities of Calgary, Canada, Catania, Italy, Chengdu, China, Ennis, Ireland, Grenoble, France, Hermosillo, Mexico, Taipei, Taiwan, Himeji, Japan and Ramat-Gan, Israel. Each city's volunteer committee puts together a booth that reflects that individual culture and includes activities for all attendees.

"Our group is unique because the sister cities are all current relationships so they actively participate in all of our activities," West said.

Admission to WorldFEST is free, as well as activities on Saturday and Sunday.

According to West, this is the only multicultural event in the Phoenix area.

"This is a chance for people to get authentic international experiences," she said. "It lets us step outside of what is familiar and get a feel for something new."

For more information about WorldFEST or Phoenix Sister Cities, visit www.phoenixsistercities.org.

• Vanja Veric is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a freshman at Arizona State University.

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