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Tighter Travel Restrictions Forces Folkfest to Cancel Event

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SPRINGVILLE, Utah (AP) -- The World Folkfest, a popular event that offers diverse entertainment from around the world, has been canceled because of visa problems and other red tape.

"Unfortunately, since Sept. 11, 2001, the process of getting visas for these groups has become so much more difficult," festival spokeswoman Christi Babbitt said.

"It is very disappointing. The board was really devastated to have to make this decision," she said.

World Folkfest began in 1984 with groups from around the globe traveling to Utah County to perform native dances from their countries. The groups pay their own way and stay with host families.

This year's event was scheduled for July 7-14. Martin Conover, chairman of the festival's board of directors, explained the visa problem for Romanians. "The group from Romania was told to come on a tourist visa," he said. "But when they first approached the embassy to get their visas, they were told to get a P-3 visa, which takes two to three months to get."

U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, said the U.S. State Department is concerned about visitors who stay beyond the date on their visa. Conover agreed. "Coming in with a dance group would be an easy way to infiltrate and get into the country," he said. Cannon suggested planning the event two years in advance.

Springville resident Sherry Wheeler enjoys the festival. "It's just a really fun thing where wonderful friendships are made," she said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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