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MidWest LatinoFest closes summer with music, food, fun, and Trump

By
Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

 

Sept. 5, 2015: The summer rains ended just in time for the gates to open—and thousands streamed into Promenade Park in downtown Toledo for one last taste of Latino food, fun, music, and culture.

 

But what the crowds didn’t see were the behind-the scenes battles to set up the whole event between thunderstorms and the dozens of volunteers who give willingly of their time to make the whole thing happen each year. An estimated crowd of about 2,500 came throughout the day.

 

Connie Rodríguez, Carmen Barbosa, and Mary Morales—members of the Spanish American Organization (SAO)—tried to stay out of the sweltering sun while they sold beer and beverage tickets.

 

“Because I like doing it—I enjoy the people. It’s just interesting to see,” said 78-year old Ms. Rodríguez, whose been volunteering the past five. “I’ve been doing Latino festivals probably as long as it’s been in existence, because I enjoy the hustle and bustle and being with people,” said Ms. Barbosa proudly. “I enjoy looking at the people. It’s just fun being here.”

 

Both women planned to stick around to see the afternoon and evening entertainment as patrons.

 

“I just enjoy the Mexican music, the Hispanic music, the dancers,” said Ms. Barbosa. “When we’re working here, we can’t see it. So we have to take time out to see what this is all about. It’s a great time.”
 

65-year old Angelo Pecina came back as a festival volunteer after a short layoff, while 37-year old Misty Waldon spent her first MidWest LatinoFest volunteer assignment alongside, both pouring Mexican beer for festival patrons.

 

“It’s been about five years ago since I done it once and I like it. It’s something to help out the community,” said Pecina. “Behind here, just seeing people come in and have a good time helps me enjoy the festival.”


Carmen Barbosa, Connie Rodríguez,  and Mary Morales

 

“I was asked to get involved by a friend of mine and I thought it sounded like fun to do on a Saturday, so I’m down here just to be in downtown Toledo on a beautiful day,” said Ms. Waldon. “It doesn’t get any better than that. I feel like I’m being helpful, so it’s all good.”

 

Vida Church

 

Festival co-organizer Adrianne Kolasinski estimated more than 70 volunteers were involved in the setup, cleanup, and day’s activities. Most of them sported a bright yellow or white T-shirt with a festival logo, so patrons could easily find help when needed. Pastor Chaz Boes of Vida Church on Broadway pledged about 25 congregation members to help with cleanup after the festival.

 

“Without them, this whole thing wouldn’t be possible,” said Ms. Kolasinski. “Many of the volunteers are friends and family. Their dedication each year makes the festival possible. We owe them a lot of gratitude.”

 

 

Donald Trump Piñata Contest

 

One of the big draws at the festival was the opportunity to play Whack-a Trump. People lined up to take a swing at a piñata resembling Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The event was all in good fun, but also served as a chance for some folks to take a swing and get their frustrations out about the billionaire’s recent caustic comments about immigration and how he labeled Latinos while on the campaign trail.

 

“I want to do it on a piñata instead of just a live person, just to let him know we’re not all what he sees us to be,” said 38-year old Pedro García of Toledo. “We’re just like all the other cultures. We all got good apples and bad apples. I just want to let him know that our culture is all beautiful different colors as you see the dancers that performed today—and wonderful food.”

 

“Because I want candy—and so he doesn’t build a wall,” said 13-year old Christian Ramírez of Sylvania, an 8th grader at St. Joseph Catholic elementary school.

“I’d do it to him if I had a chance. If the guy were in front of me, I’d do it to him,” said 63-year old Laura García with a laugh, who emigrated from Chile to Toledo 30 years ago. “He’s the stupidest person I ever seen.”

 

“I don’t agree with anything he’s about to be honest with you, I don’t.  We’re not all killers,” said Christopher Ruiz, 48, of Oregon.

 

“We’re not all rapists and we’re not all drug dealers. It’s ridiculous, his statements,” echoed   Gina Corona-Koepfer of Toledo. “I think it’s great to pound him over his head here.”

 

While hordes of TV cameras recorded every moment, MidWest LatinoFest organizers hung three Trump piñatas from a tree. People took turns swinging a colorfully-decorated baton, cheers arising anytime someone got in a good shot.

 

“It felt good, felt good—a lot of frustration off,” said Pedro García with a laugh afterward.

 

“That felt great. I wish he was here in person, though, around all of us, so we can get him for what he said,” stated Melissa Guerrero Jackson, 41, who moved to Toledo from Laredo, Texas. “Not violence, but for him to hear us, how we’re proud and we’re hard-working and we’re not the violent people or came here for just an opportunity. We’re here to work hard and gain ourselves up instead of down.”

 

“It felt good. For a person to be so anti-immigrant, it’s so double-standard for him. It’s not right. We’re a country-based on immigrants. Let’s face it,” said Charissa García, a lifelong Toledoan.

 

Entertainment

 

The hot summer Saturday night also provided just the right backdrop for some hot entertainment, as members of Los Mariachis Locos and several other mariachi groups opened the evening’s stage acts with energy and enthusiasm.

 

Radio Free Honduras from Chicago [Latin rock], Grand Rapids-based Latin Dynasty [bachata, merengue], and Toledo’s own Yvonne y Grupo Fuego [Tejano]caught fire with their sets, providing hundreds of patrons with a reason to dance on the wooden floor set up on the park’s riverfront lawn.  Grupo Fuego has been nominated for two awards in the upcoming Tejano Music Awards in San Antonio, scheduled for Oct. 24.  

 

The afternoon crowd was also entertained by DJs Tony and Javi Rios, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe impersonators from Michigan, and dancing by the pre-Columbian group Grupo Tepehuani Nelli [Aztec] and post-Columbian group El Corazón de México [Mexican folkloric].

 

Sponsors/Partners included: McDonald’s, The Fair Housing Center, Sighted Guide Ohio, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Budweiser, Midwest Tejano Music Association, Inc., Spanish American Organization, La Prensa, TRE, Inc. [Tony Rios Enterprises], Nuestra Gente [Linda Parra], midwesttejanoradio.com [Luis García], 13abc, SGI Images, Imagination Station, OLA, Toledo Zoo, Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center, and The Home Depot.  Sound was provided by Galán Sound from Fostoria.

 

Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report.   

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2015 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/08/15 20:01:32 -0700.

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