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MidWest LatinoFest entertains thousands at Promenade Park, including los Niños

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


June 16, 2012: MidWest LatinoFest proved to be a huge success with an estimated 2,200 attending to savor Latino cuisine and culture. Participants and spectators came from at least five states.


Hundreds flocked to Promenade Park to take part in a day of Tejano, mariachi, conjunto, and salsa music, plenty of Mexican and Caribbean food, as well as family-friendly activities.


The festival co-chairs and supportive coordinators credited a dedicated committee and energetic volunteers, who worked tirelessly over just four months to plan the event from scratch and continue a Latino tradition and save it from the brink of extinction. And they credit the surrounding communities in supporting the annual festivals.


The principals of Latinofest, who ran a similar festival in prior years (2001 to 2011), had disbanded over the winter. This festival continues the tradition of Latino cultural celebration carried on in the greater Toledo area since the 1930s.  


“We didn’t start with one penny. We didn’t have one penny, one dime,” said Lucy “Lulu” Perales, festival co-chair. “Sponsorships started popping in. Even the deputy sheriffs and various other organizations volunteered some of their time to help with the budget. The musicians helped to make it happen—the dancers, the performers.”


The festival committee printed 130 T-shirt to give to volunteers, but so many people showed up to help that they ran out of shirts by noon.


“There were people coming to the gates this morning to volunteer. We even had people from the local downtown that wandered up and offered to help. We put them to work setting up tables,” said George Plasencio, festival co-chair. “They were amazing to come out and support us.”

Go Diego Go!


Diego, a cartoon character from the popular Nickelodeon show “Go Diego Go!” walked among the throng, posing for pictures with young children and adults alike. Children also spent a good part of the afternoon under a tent filled with family activities, such as face painting and arts and crafts.


“I’m very much encouraged. What it is, we’ve never had people come out so early,” said Ms. Perales. “It’s the way we changed the menu, by having Diego, by having Home Depot, so much more for the children to do. It’s been fabulous.”


Thanks to the Home Depot, children were able to construct tool boxes for their fathers for Father’s Day on June 17th.


The influx of children is attributed to the myriad of activities for them, plus free admission. Additional activities included the traditional piñata bashing [the piñata was donated by La Perla], free ice cream/popsicles furnished by First Merit Bank, the famous Toledo Petting Zoo, the gifted CheerWorks Sparks gymnastics center, the numerous arts and crafts and face-painting activities hosted by the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center.


The Committee was also thankful for The Blade’s tremendous sponsorship and furnishing of free photographs of festival guests who could be also photographed with Nickelodeon’s Diego.


DJ Nando and DJ Anthony Durán entertained, along with numerous regional bands and dance troupes El Corazón de México and Ballet Folklorico Imagenes Mexicanas.

Committee thankful for weather, crowd, and participants


People even came to the festival by boat, docking along the Maumee River to listen to the music. One boat even flew the Mexican flag in honor of the festival, and people could be seen salsa-dancing on the decks of their vessels. That scene brought a smile to the respective faces of the festival committee.


“We’re really grateful for the weather. We’re really grateful for everyone’s participation, helping us out this year,” echoed Plasencio. “Four months, it’s been a whirlwind. We’ve been looking forward to this day. Everybody has worked really hard to make this happen.”


But the festival steering committee was certainly motivated by the prospect of losing a Toledo-based Latino festival altogether. The committee and coordinators included:  La Prensa’s Nanette Nieto (who is also the Secretary/Treasurer of MidWest TejanoFest), Adrianne Chasteen, and Rico Neller, The Blade’s Mark Peddicord (Blade Marketing Manager) and Lulu Perales, George Plasencio, Simon Rodríguez and Carmen Barbosa of the Spanish American Organization, Linda Alvarado, Freddy Gutiérrez, Tony and Maryori Rios, Gerald Rosales, Linda Parra, José Cárdenas, María and Jaime Molina, Tonya and Anthony Durán, Olga Flores-Jaimez, Mark and Nady García, Kylie Courter, Victoria Mares, Linda de la Peña, Chevo Torres, Luis González and the NLPOA, SGI Images, La Prensa, and the MidWest Tejano Music Association, Inc.


The committee and coordinators were thankful for the additional sponsors: Buckeye CableSystem, Ohio Housing Finance Agency, TARTA, Budweiser, ADT, Angi González and WNWO, WBGU 88.1FM, TejanoFM.com, Voces Latinas, Nuestra Gente, Pepsi, CityWide Auto Credit, Stevens Disposal, and First Merit Bank.


Tradition and Culture are important


“What do I tell my children? What do I tell them, where do we go?” Ms. Perales asked. “As it is, we’re down to one radio station in Bowling Green. Imagine that going away. What do I tell my children? This is where families come out to listen to our traditional music. We’ve got to have this—it’s part of our heart, part of our soul.”

“In my mind, if this festival went away, it would be a great tragedy for the Latino community,” said Plasencio. “This is the one day that the Latino community of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan can come to downtown Toledo and celebrate, dance to the music, have good food, and really share camaraderie with everybody.”


“I think we’d be losing part of the quality of life of living in Toledo. The diversity is probably the greatest thing we’ve got going for us,” said Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, who paid the festival a visit and even participated in some salsa dancing in front of the stage.

Mayor Bell also suggested that earlier festival-tradition be revived by including the annual parade from the South End to the festival grounds, accompanied by folkloric dancing.

Organizers believe the festival accomplishes two major aspects within Toledo in particular and Ohio and Michigan in general. First, the festival serves as a way to keep Latino traditions and culture alive in an era when many young Latinos may lose their roots as they assimilate to a US-American way of life.


“It’s about the children. It’s about teaching them the traditions, continuing the traditions, and showing them what our culture is about,” said Ms. Perales. “This is part of it—this music. Keep the traditions alive, we need to do that. It’s great to see the years of families continuing on.”

To that end, the festival committee relied heavily on the youthful energy and support of college and school-age volunteers to help run the day-long events.


“We had college students involved. We asked kids from the University of Toledo, Lourdes, and Bowling Green to be involved. We asked high school kids to be involved,” said Ms. Perales. “We want them to see what it takes to make it happen, getting the sponsorships, organizing. It took everybody to come together. Look at the weather. Even Mother Nature participated.”


Second, organizers stated the festival helps show the larger community that the Latino population plays a valuable part in the fabric of the city and region.


“The greater community gets to know Hispanic culture,” said Plasencio. “You don’t have to be Latino to come down here and have a good time.”


“Now we’re starting to collaborate with each other and that’s what’s going to make this city great. I think this is a place that’s going to sneak up on a lot of places in the U.S. and Midwest,” said Mayor Bell. “If we start working together, that’s what this festival helps us do.  This festival helps us understand each other.”


Promenade Park will undergo a landscape-changing renovation yet this summer after The Blade’s 4th of July festivities (Red, White, and Kaboom), which will only add more amenities to next year’s MidWest LatinoFest. 


The multi-million dollar project will occur in phases over the next few years, but will expand the park from Summit St. all the way to the downtown waterfront. A permanent stage and walking/biking paths are part of the plan, as well as a terraced park with water features and other amenities.


“This is just going to be an unbelievable place and it’s all happening because we’re all working together,” said Mayor Bell.


A larger, more family-friendly Promenade Park may serve as a backdrop for a bigger and better Midwest LatinoFest in future years. The committee’s aim is to market the event to a broader audience—including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Chicago, and Indianapolis, thus reflecting its name.


“The festival’s got a great future. Once we’re done, we’re going to have a ‘hot-wash’ meeting in a week or two and see how we did,” said Plasencio. “Next year we’re hoping to bring national acts back to Toledo from Texas.”


Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report.

More Midwest LatinoFest Pictures


Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/19/12 21:56:55 -0700.





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