Saturday's Welcoming Week Festival Recognizes Contributions of Immigrants

Northwest Arkansas will be participating in National Welcoming Week with a major event scheduled for Saturday.

EngageNWA, which is a coalition of nonprofit organizations, businesses and community members dedicated to making Northwest Arkansas welcoming to immigrants, and its partners have organized Welcome Week NWA 2016 and it’ll be held from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Shiloh Square in downtown Springdale.

The event is intended to recognize the contributions of immigrants to Northwest Arkansas. Saturday’s festival will include music, dancing, cultural entertainment, arts and crafts, proclamations and special guests, said Terry Bankston, the director of EngageNWA. In addition to EngageNWA, the event's other sponsors include the Jones Center, Walmart, Tyson Foods, the Northwest Arkansas Council and the University of Arkansas.

Northwest Arkansas participated in Welcoming Week last year, and it was among the estimated 245 diversity celebrations that occurred during Welcoming Week in 2015.

This year’s celebrations are occurring between Sept. 16 and Sept. 25. More than 275 Welcoming Week events are planned, including everything from festivals and community dialogues to Twitter chats and film screenings.

“These celebrations are part of a powerful and growing movement in our country and around the world,” said David Lubell, founder and executive director of Welcoming America. “Communities recognize that they are more vibrant and prosperous when everyone feels welcomed and can fully participate. In events across the world this week, new and long-time residents are building bridges and make their communities stronger.”

Arkansas, and especially Northwest Arkansas, is becoming more and more diverse as the years pass.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the African-American population represents 15.7 percent of the state’s nearly 3 million residents. The state’s population is 7.2 percent Hispanic and 1.6 percent Asian.

Springdale is Northwest Arkansas’ most diverse city where almost 29,000 people (37 percent of the city’s residents) are Hispanic. Nearly 5 percent of residents are Pacific Islanders as the city has one of the world’s largest populations of people from the Marshall Islands.

Diversity is increasing in most Northwest Arkansas cities.

Rogers and Siloam Springs, for example, have sizable Hispanic populations at 32 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Bentonville, meanwhile, has the region’s largest Asian population at about 9 percent. Its Hispanic population is also near 9 percent.