HUDSON: City merchants will celebrate the community’s cultural diversity with the third annual Hudson International Festival, a weeklong sampling of taste, music and history that begins Saturday.



Some 25 businesses along Main Street, the First & Main shopping area and the Acme plaza will represent a different country, each noting their allegiances with flags and competitive window displays.



There will also be a free food and spirits night from 5 to 8 p.m., with participants offering samples relevant to their chosen country, said organizer Janet Rhodes, who owns Janet Rhodes Brings You Fair Trade on Main Street.



“We wanted a way to honor different cultures within our community ... and support the business owners,” Rhodes said.



Visitors to the “countries” can have a passport stamped at each location. There will be coloring books, maps and quizzes for children.



Even some of Hudson’s schools are jumping on board.



Seton Catholic School will become a “United Nations” for the week, with special student programming. The city district’s Evamere Elementary will host its own international festival. And Hudson Montessori students are participating in a “Many Cultures, One Family” poster contest, with the finished work to be put on display at area businesses.



“When all is said and done, several thousand [will participate in various activities] spread out over the entire week,” Rhodes said.



Some businesses are finding ways to support their chosen country.



Rhodes has adopted the Philippines, and a portion of sales from her business during the festival will be used to support a mission project in that country.



The weeklong event will kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday with a parade of flags starting at the Hudson Public Library and Historical Society and marching around the downtown area.



It will end April 13, beginning at 2 p.m. with closing ceremonies and performances by Indian and Irish dance groups at Hudson High School as part of the local business chamber’s Hudson EXPO.



Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.