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Hispanic Heritage Festival draws large crowd

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FACE PAINTING: A young girl has the Mexican flag painted on her cheek during Saturday’s Hispanic Heritage Festival at Veteran’s Park.
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TORTILLAS: A womanprepares shucks corn in preparation of making chili con elote onSaturday during Frankfort’s first Hispanic Heritage Festival.

By Jerry Leonard - news@ftimes.com

Veteran’s Park saw a large turnout of visitors during the City of Frankfort’s first Hispanic Heritage Festival Saturday, with words such as “community,” “harmony” and “opportunity” being used by local leaders and visitors while describing the event.

Mayor Chris McBarnes welcomed the crowd to start the festival.

“This is really, I believe, a historic day for the City of Frankfort,” McBarnes said. “This is our first Hispanic Heritage Festival. I, as mayor, think this event is so important because this is about bringing our community together. No matter where we hail from, no matter what we might look like, we’re all Frankfort Hot Dogs. This event brings us together, and it also brings the opportunity to make new friends, to meet neighbors that they might not have (had) the opportunity to grow a relationship with.

“So, it’s very symbolic and it’s a great opportunity to celebrate a wonderful culture,” McBarnes added. “I believe this will be the first event of many in regards to Hispanic Heritage Festivals. And I really do want to praise Annie Bacon, our Community Development Director, and the Farmer’s Bank. Without them and our Parks Department, this event would not have happened.”

There were several activities and entertainment throughout the event for people to enjoy, such as demonstrations on how to make handmade tortillas, homemade piñatas, paper flowers and Horchata (rice water).

On the main stage were musical groups La Jauria and La Nueva Dosis Nortena. Unfortunately, the group Trio JVM was not able to perform due to the possibilities of a storm. The threat of rain also caused the event to stop early, midway into the Folklore Dance Group, Mosaicos, who, before they had to abruptly stop, performed traditional Mexican dances from different regions of Mexico. Young and old were also entertained by a clown act featuring Pastelito and Diamantina.

Visitors had a selection of several food vendors selling well-known traditional Hispanic food.

“I think this is something to get the community together,” said Raul Perez, a long time resident of Frankfort and visitor of the event. “I really like it, and I hope we do it every year.”

Perez believes events like this are important for the community because “we all can get together and be friendly with each other.”

“I’m just grateful for all of the sponsors and vendors and the community participation,” said Bacon. “This event would not have been possible without the teamwork. We had the Learning Network, Purdue Extension, the Community Public Library, the Parks Department, the C.R.A.S.H. club at the high school and individual people. So, no one person or group really brought this together. It was a tremendous effort by a number of people who really care about the community and care about bringing different cultures in this community together.”

Months earlier, Frankfort High School students were asked to write an essay on the topic “What Are The Benefits of A Multicultural Community.” A panel of 10 judges reviewed the essays and selected the finalist. The first-place $200 award went to Odalis Campos. Second place ($100) went to Christina Espidio while Diana Mora earned the third-place award ($50).

The essay contest was sponsored by the Frankfort Lions Club.

In addition to the essay contest, students from the Frankfort High School participated in a Community Art Project that celebrated culture and diversity. These art works were displayed Bridy’s Bakery, Halleluyah Way, Arni’s, Center Township, Frankfort Community Public Library, Ellis Jewelers, Los Tres Hermanos, Purdue Extension, and the Learning Network.

“It has ended up being a beautiful day and it’s going to be a wonderful evening,” said Parks Superintendent Travis Sheets early in the event. “I’m just excited to see so many people, and I know here within and hour or so I would imagine this place is going to be packed.” On Sunday, Sheets said that attendance was estimated to be around 1,200.

“The Parks Department and Annie Bacon did a really good job with getting the word out,” Sheets said. “We had flyers all over town, and we used every source of news media. Hopefully, this will be an annual festival. I think relationships are very important and the more we can get together with one another I think the stronger our bonds will be.”

Pastor Leo Gonzalez said the festival was a lot of fun.

“As you see, right now, this is just the beginning (of today’s event), and it’s getting very busy,” Gonzalez. “This is really great that when we have this fellowship, these activities together. It’s an opportunity to learn more about different cultures.

“We are here to give back to our community, and we want to share our music, we want to share our culture, our traditions, and we want to learn from the Caucasians also,” Gonzalez added. “This is going to bring harmony to our community. Our mayor, Chris McBarnes, has been working very hard to close the gap between the communities.”

Gonzalez added that he is, “100 percent sure this is going to grow larger and not only from the Frankfort community but we’re going to have more people from outside. The harmony you see with the Hispanics and the Caucasians makes us a very unique community. That is very healthy for our city.”

Frankfort High School students presented information and the national anthems of Mexico (presented by Itzel Garza), El Salvador (presented by Ashley Campos-Hernandez), Nicaragua (presented by Odalis Campos Vasquez), Guatemala (presented by Ivan Santos) and Honduras (presented by Diana Garcia-Garcia).

“We’re very excited about this festival taking place,” said Esmeralda Cruz, Clinton County Human Development Extension Educator. “We’ve had festivals that celebrate Hispanic Heritage month but, to my knowledge, nothing in the past has had the city’s , not just support, but to have actual staff working to put this together. So it’s very exciting.

“I think we have had a great group of volunteers that have been willing to give of their time, like our judges for our essay contest and the school supporting us by having their students make art that celebrates culture and diversity,” she added. “The volunteers from the high school, the National Honors Society, C.R.A.S.H. Club, L.E.A.D. are here today. When we came here to set up today we were scheduled to be for three hours but we were done in an hour and a half because we had so many people ready to make all of this happen.”

Going into the festival, Cruz was hoping to have a good turnout.

“One of the ways to measure the success of this event is not just by the number of people that come but also to see the interactions and to see if people feel welcome,” Cruz said. “One of the biggest things, as we were meeting to put this together, we were trying as much as possible to cover things in both languages so that people that come feel welcome.

“I think this is very important,” Cruz continued. “Because one of the things we have heard in formal conversations, as well as focus groups, is one thing that people say is that they feel we need more spaces where Spanish and English speaking people can come together and, without any sort of pressure, just have the opportunity to all get to know each other and realize at the end of the day we are all just people trying to make a better life. So, I think this event helps give one more opportunity for that to happen.”