The first ever Latino Fest Celebration in Appleton will be held on Sunday, September 13th, from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Pierce Park, 1035 West Prospect. Admission is free and the event will go on rain or shine.
The event helps kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) and is designed to help recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States as well as celebrating the heritage and culture.
Hispanic Heritage Month was created in 1968 and is a salute to the anniversary of the independence of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica; Mexico, Belize and Chile also celebrate independence days during the month.
While some of the activities will have an educational aspect, there will be music, dancing, games, food, a jalapeno-eating contest and a children’s area.
The music/dance lineup is strong, headed by highly-regarded Salsa Manzana and mariachi singer Jose Luis Vargas as well as DJ spins from Henry Garza, who will also serve as master of ceremonies. The dance lineup is also excellent with the Aztec Dancers and Zumba with Jackie Brown.
Salsa Manzana features some of the finest musicians in the area including Jose Encarnacion, Noah Harmon, Andy Mertens, John Daniel, Vicki Daniel, Julio Reyes, Mark Te Tai, Matt Granatella, Marisol Encarnacion, Andy Plank, Tom Vanden Avond and Carlos Mendez.
“Salsa Manzana’s music is not only the heartbeat of Latin America, it is full of joy and you hear it all over the world,” said Appleton-based jazz vocalist Gwen Carr. “Their rapport with each other creates an energy that truly engages the crowd. People don’t just sit and listen, they dance. When they dance, the band gets even better.”
She added, “They are just plain, flat out, pedal to the metal fun.”
“The Latino Fest Celebration is something that is long overdue in Appleton,” said Carlos Mendez. “We are very excited about playing. We are very lucky to live in an area where there are so many festivals around like Waterfest, Neenah Concert series, Mile of Music and so many other great venues for summer fun for everyone to enjoy. The Fox Valley is, without a doubt, growing and expanding and bringing more cultural events . We live in a beautiful community and is still a fun place to raise a family.”
While the emphasis is on fun and education, there are higher purposes in play as well. A merger of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with Casa Hispana, Inc. will create synergies that result in even greater benefits to the community.
Casa Hispana is an organization that provides scholarships to Hispanic students seeking higher education. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is a multi-faceted entity that engages in advocacy and serves as a referral agency for the unemployed and underserved as well as running job training programs in conjunctin with Fox Valley Technical College. They also assist new arrivals and others who are unfamiliar with “the system.”
“The merger of Casa Hispana with Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will give us more infrastructure and greater visibility in the community,” said Ernesto Gonzalez, who is the president of the board of directors at Casa Hispana as well as the assistant to the associate director of the Chamber. “The cooperative action created by the merger will enable us to provide more scholarships and education.”
There will be fund-raising activities and other opportunities to contribute.