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Latino leaders meet focusing on continuing annual Latino fest

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


As the principals who organized the annual LatinoFest in downtown Toledo discontinue its 11-year run and disbanded the organization, a second group of volunteers—many of whom were part of LatinoFest— meet to revive the tradition with a similar event to be known as Midwest LatinoFest.


15 individuals met in the downtown offices of La Prensa on Feb. 2 to organize and discuss the need to keep a Latino-oriented festival going at Promenade Park. The festival was a celebration of Latino entertainment, food, art and culture that drew thousands each year.

Lucy Perales


The festival’s new name is an effort to draw Latino families from across the region—as far away as Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and neighboring states—as well as showcase Toledo’s diverse population and its growing Latino influence locally. The festival traditionally is held the third Saturday in June. This year that date falls on June 16, 2012.


The original LatinoFest principals decided to distribute an estimated $14,000 in proceeds from previous events to a number of Latino causes and organizations locally, including $10,000 to the annual Diamante Awards and scholarship program.


The nascent organizing committee intends to put on the new festival without the help of a paid consultant or coordinator, in order to save money and put more of the proceeds toward Latino causes. The all-volunteer group represents a cross-section of professionals in entertainment, promotion, marketing, and other facets needed to organize a festival. Committees are being formed to handle the various aspects of the event.


“You guys are inspiring, you have the talent,” said Lucy Perales, one of the new festival’s organizers. “You are so encouraging. I have a lot of faith in you guys.”


The group hopes to recruit a mix of Tejano and other Latin-flavored musical groups from across Northwest Ohio and Michigan, and possibly Texas. Local and regional bands have developed a strong following that can be a solid draw at a festival within reasonable driving distance.


The group plans to incorporate as a non-profit organization, file articles of incorporation and bylaws with the state, and elect a board of directors. Some of those at the meeting worked with LatinoFest in the past including Ms. Perales, George Plasencio, María Molina, José Cardenas, Freddy Gutiérrez, Tony Rios Jr., and Rico Neller. Others in attendance included Nuestra Gente Radio Show hostess Linda Parra, Board of Community Relations executive director Linda Alvarado, La Prensa’s Nanette Nieto and Adrianne Chasteen, Mark and Nady García, Kylie Courter, and Victoria Mares.


“I’m not here for me. I’m here for the music, for the camaraderie, and the community,” said Neller. “Not just the Hispanic (community), but we want to educate the Anglo world about the music and the community.”


Ms. Alvarado later informed La Prensa that Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was solidly behind the community project.


The group immediately set out to develop a logo and search for festival sponsors to offset the costs. Toledo’s Latino youth also are being sought to volunteer at booths, to work with children’s events, and help in other ways. More than 100 volunteers will be needed for the event. The aim is to keep the event affordable and family friendly.


There is an opportunity to enhance and expand the festival at Promenade Park, which is undergoing extensive renovations and improvements to make it a more popular riverfront attraction for Toledo-area families. Site work is already being done at the park, which will include closing Water Street to enlarge the park from Summit St. all the way to the Maumee River. City crews have added dirt to create a sloping amphitheater and children’s play area.


The group plans to meet again at the offices of La Prensa on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. Other Latinos interested in helping organize the revamped festival are invited and encouraged to attend.


Related La Prensa article: LatinoFest ends on a High Note

Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/07/12 19:17:00 -0800.





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