Latino fest to celebrate culture, community

Herald file photos by Kaiti Sullivan
Local dancers performed traditional dances during the Latino Cultural Fest at Huntingburg City Park in September 2019. The 2020 iteration of the fest was canceled due to COVID-19, but this year's is this weekend.

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Latino culture will be on display and celebrated this weekend. And all are welcomed to enjoy the festivities.

The Latino Culture Fest will be held from 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at Huntingburg City Park.

The Association Latino Americana Del Sur de Indiana, or Association of Latin Americans in Southern Indiana, hosts the event each year. It’s a time for Latino and Anglo communities to come together and celebrate, said Eber Menjivar, president of ALASI.

“This festival is not only for the Latinos,” he said. “It is based off of the Latino culture and our history, and we are very proud of that. But it's also a festival where we get to display who we are, what we bring, what our music is, what our traditional colors are, all kinds of interesting display for people to see. Others can come and maybe start to appreciate the culture. And maybe you will understand a little bit more about your neighbor that lives behind you, the one you didn't think you had anything in common with.”

This is the eighth year of the Latino Culture Fest; last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19.

A new event that will be at the fest is Young Latino Voices, a discussion with five Hispanic high school seniors. The discussion will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday evening.

“We want to have a conversation with these students, to understand their perspective of what being Latino means to them, what it means to them to be Hispanic,” Menjivar said. “What does it mean to you to say that you're from Mexico or from El Salvador, or how do you represent your heritage?”

Yecenia Melendez, left, and Cristi Cuellar, both of Jasper, cook during Latino Cultural Fest at Huntingburg City Park in September 2019.

The talk will be informal. “It’s going to be a roundtable discussion, nothing too formal, so that these high school Latino seniors feel comfortable with talking to us on stage,” Menjivar said. “It’s something we're really excited for this year.”

The event replaces the pageant that is normally held. “We think that this will be a better way to engage with the high school seniors and really see their perspective,” Menjivar said, “maybe get them to talk about their struggles or what they go through at high school or living here in this community.”

Each of the five students will receive $200 to use for their education or future endeavors, Menjivar said.

The idea came from ALASI members. One of ALASI’s goals is to be a bridge between Latino communities as well as between the Latino and Anglo communities in the county.

“We want to incorporate as many people as we can,” Menjivar said. “We want this festival to be for everyone. And though the pageant was a great opportunity to display the amazing talent we have in the area, we wanted to do this to bring more people together. It's our first year of trying this, but we're already getting a lot of positive feedback. Hopefully that same energy continues throughout the fest.”

The popular eating contests will be back. The Officials Eating Contest, which is a guessing game for the blindfolded contestants, will be at 5:15 p.m. Friday. And the popular Taco Eating Contest will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday.

“That one has been huge,” Menjivar said of the taco contest. “It’s gotten amazing traction the last two years that we've done it. And people have really gotten behind it. It’s just a really fun time.”

And there will be plenty of music. DJ Kazanova will provide music Friday evening and night. And the band La Nueva Dosis Norteña will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. that evening.

“They’re a Mexican region band from Indianapolis, and they are getting pretty big,” Menjivar said. They've opened some pretty big concerts for a bigger, more renowned band up in Indy recently. So we're excited to bring them down here.”

Saturday’s performances will include DJ Rojo playing music all day and evening and bands Grupo Guanaco performing at 5 p.m. and Grupo Algodon performing at 7 p.m.

The Baile Tradicional Mexicano performance is also popular, Menjivar said. Young people perform traditional Mexican dances on the stage; the performance will start at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.

“You have these kids and this amazing attire,” Menjivar said. “The young girls will have on their beautiful, colorful dresses, displaying them and dancing for the crowd, dancing to that music that is customary to Mexico.”

Food and information booths, face painting, henna tattoo art and children's games round out the two-day festival. So there will be something for everyone to enjoy, Menjivar said.

“The Latino Culture Fest is for everyone to go and just have a good time,” he said. “Events like this is what really is going to encompass the whole community to come together, work together and learn from one another. This can hopefully be a way of understanding one another in a way, connecting us more and seeing how we are more related than we are different.”


Latino Culture Fest Schedule

Friday

4 p.m. Food booths open; DJ Kazanova plays music until 11 p.m.

5 p.m. Opening ceremony; face painting by Delmy Dubon and Johana Bernardo until 7 p.m.; henna tattoo art by Natilee and Ashlee Wahl until 9 p.m.

5:15 p.m. Officials Eating Contest

6 p.m. Young Latino Voices discussion

7 p.m. La Nueva Dosis Norteña band performs

11 p.m. Food booths close

Saturday

8 a.m. Soccer tournament

11 a.m. Food Boothjs open; DJ Rojo plays music to 11 p.m.

1 p.m. Soccer tournament trophies awarded

2 p.m. Trompos, a traditional Latino game for children

4 p.m. Taco Eating Contest

5 p.m. Grupo Guanaco band performs; face painting by Delmy Dubon and Johana Bernardo until 7 p.m.; henna tattoo art by Natilee and Ashlee Wahl until 9 p.m.

6:15 p.m. Baile Tradicional Mexicano, traditional Mexcan dances performed by local boys and girls

7 p.m. Grupo Algodon band performs

11 p.m. Food booths close

All events will take place in Huntingburg City Park, which is located at First and South Cherry streets.




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