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LatinoFest ends on a High Note
OP Ed by Margarita De León,
Founder of LatinoFest
Toledo, Ohio, January 29, 2012

After 11 successful years of bringing Latino entertainment, food, art and culture to downtown Toledo, the principals have decided to discontinue the LatinoFest organization.

We owe the success of LatinoFest to a very dynamic, cohesive, and positive group of people. At that time (2001), I felt that the community needed to showcase itself on a grander scale as a way to connect with all people in the northwest Ohio region. I knew this was happening in other parts of the country, so why not here?  I also saw it as an opportunity to highlight the diversity within the Latino community in a fun and exciting way.

Margarita De León

Consuelo Hernández brought the professionalism which allowed Toledo’s LatinoFest to succeed and prosper. She continues to be well-regarded for all of her contributions to local organizations as well as individuals in northwest Ohio.  With her departure, members of the leadership team agreed it was time to make a change.

 “It was a pleasure to work with so many good volunteers and people who really care about the community,” said Ms. Consuelo Hernández, Co-chair for the first 5 years and Chair for the last 6 years. “It was also great that we were able to support so many Latino organizations and causes over the years.” Ms. Hernández currently works in Milwaukee as the Human Resources Officer for the public library.

LatinoFest success is attributed to the great chemistry created with core group of volunteers. This group included: Olga Jaimez who lead the children’s area over the years; María and Katherine Trinidad and Bob Salazar and Jessie Jaquez who managed the financial aspects; Simon and Andrea Rodríguez who developed the logo and designed the marketing materials; George Placensio along with Mateo Espinoza who would manage logistics on the ground, always arriving in the early morning to make sure everything was set up correctly for the vendors; Betty Rios and Alvina Costilla who skillfully managed  the relationships with vendors, many of them who returned annually from Michigan, Chicago, Florida and all areas of the Midwest; Freddy Gutiérrez from WBGU who managed the entertainment along with José Cárdenas and Jaime Molina

Recently, María Molina joined the team and helped with design; website; vendors and promotion. The Committee also worked hand-on-hand with the sheriff’s department - most recently, with Jeff Sabo and previously with Linda De La Peña

Others that have been involved over the years included: Celso Rodríguez, Hector and Flo Flores, Dolores Rodríguez, Robert Rodríguez, Mary Morales, Lucy Perales, and Theresa Morris-Ramos. Tony Rios supported the event in various capacities over the years including serving as MC, DJ and performer as well as recording the event and presenting it on Voces Latinas.

Lady Di, as well as other Latino DJs and media throughout the region helped to promote LatinoFest for free and at reduced cost. In addition, the organization required at least 100 volunteers for the day of the event. Many Latino and non-Latino organizations and individuals stepped up to fulfill this role.

“We just want to thank everyone who helped make LatinoFest a huge success. There were many people over the 11 years who pitched in. It was great to see so many people from our community willing to come out and help. From selling tickets at the entrance to serving beer and pop, it was a great community gathering,” said Ms. Hernández.

LatinoFest began when CitiFest was still in existence working initially with its director Jan Aguilar and then establishing a relationship with Julie Champa, the former director.

“LatinoFest maintained Julie over the 11 years. Her expertise in event coordination and planning, her knowledge of the city and county regulations and her attention to detail, made her an invaluable team member,” said Ms. Hernández.

LatinoFest prided itself with keeping the event affordable and family friendly.  The highlight of LatinoFest was Ramón Ayala on June 19, 2010. Other Emmy award winning artists over the years included Emilio Navaira, Willie Colón, Jimmy Edward, Joe Bravo, Little Joe y La Familia, Shelly Lares, Bobby Pulido, Tropa F, David Lee Garza and many others.

Salsa bands Grupo Fuego, Noel Quintana, and Sammy De León y Su Orquesta all came to play, not to mention numerous Tex Mex and Tejano bands from the region.  The music ranged from Tejano to Salsa to Banda to Country Western to Mariachis to Hip-hop to Peruvian to Reggaeton. Mexican and Puerto Rican folkloric dance groups as well as Brazilian and Flamenco dancers graced the stage. Many vendors followed for 11 years.

LatinoFest volunteers worked closely with the City and the County to prepare for the event on the Riverfront. There were many sponsors, but Treu House of Munch; American Family Insurance; Mercy Health Partners; PNC Bank; and Paramount Advantage were steadfast supporters. 

In the past 5 years, The Toledo Blade came on as the primary partner and sponsor providing a large internet presence and numerous free ads to promote the event in the paper.  LatinoFest was showcased on the cover of the Peach section for a number of years. The Toledo Zoo and the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center worked hand in hand with Olga Jaimez, children’s area coordinator, to have a fun and dynamic area for families to play.

In addition to raising seed money for the following year, the event was able to support numerous Latino events, initiatives and individuals in the Latino community, many on an annual basis. These included: the Diamante Awards, Sofia Quintero Center Entre Amigos and Día de Los Muertos, Adelante César Chávez, Spanish American Organization Latino Day at the Mud Hens, Mayores Senior Center, Red Cross, Latino Youth Summit; MECHA-LSU annual dance; St. Francis De Sales High School Cinco de Mayo dinner; SS. Peter & Paul Festival; Viva South Festival; TejanoFest at Centennial Terrace, and many others.

Prior to LatinoFest, there was the Mexican American Cultural Association and several prominent promoters who brought large acts to Toledo. Anita Serda from the Perrysburg Heights Association has been successful with the South of the Border event every August.

There are others in the community who have already expressed an interest in having similar events. We are very proud of what we accomplished and to be part of Toledo’s Latino history. We encourage others to create a new organization and to continue the tradition of celebrating Latino cultures in northwest Ohio.

Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/31/12 13:07:49 -0800.





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