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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Inaugural Festival De Las Americas Proves Muy Bueno 

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Inaugural Festival De Las Americas Proves Muy Bueno

by James Coulter

Local Winter Haven residents of Hispanic descent were able to celebrate and share their culture during the inaugural Festival De Las Americas hosted last Saturday in Downtown Winter Haven.

Hosted by the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County, this inaugural cultural event drew several hundred attendees to Central Park in Downtown Winter Haven for an afternoon of festive Hispanic heritage.

Several dozen vendors from local businesses and organizations, many of them run by Hispanic business owners and employees, were able to promote their merchandise and services, as well as provide free candy and fun activities for all ages.

On the central stage, plenty of music and dance performances including mariachi bands provided live musical entertainment and demonstrations of Hispanic heritage and tradition. Despite a small drizzle earlier that afternoon, the entire event enjoyed nothing but bright sunny weather.

Ana Rivera, Hispanic Chamber President, had been approached by the City of Winter Haven to host some events for them. Her chamber had previously hosted the Three Kings Block Party in January, which proved to be a huge success, and which they plan to host again.

“I [told them] let us start with the Three Kings Block Party…and see if we can bring some Latinos with Downtown Winter Haven, and when we did, what else can we do [but] host a Hispanic festival?” she explained. “We need to be the same as the other cities in the area, especially when you are the fastest growing cities with Hispanics.”

Rivera considered the event to be very successful for the first time. She especially considered the turnout from vendors and sponsors to be the driving factor behind their event’s success.

“I think for the first time, we had a lot of people very interested in participating being vendors and patrons. A lot of sponsors helped with the fees to put this together because this takes time and money,” she explained. “Now we have more people showing up because they know they are hearing the music, they are smelling the food, and we are having a great time today.”

Jose Rivera, the owner of Fortaleza Rehabilitation Center, opened his business in Winter Haven a month ago. He had moved from Pennsylvania to open his new business in Florida and decided Winter Haven was the best place for it.

Not only did he want to promote his new business as a vendor, but he also wanted to celebrate his Hispanic heritage with his fellow Latino residents.

“We wanted to be part of the community,” he said. “I think it is a great thing every year to share and celebrate our Hispanic heritage…it is great to understand and share the culture and the food.”

Polk County Democrats attended to share information about local political groups and to inspire attendees to vote in the coming election. They appreciated the event and considered it a great opportunity for potential voters, especially within the Hispanic community.

“I think it brings people together and demonstrates Latin culture and it is appealing to families and everyone,” a Polk CountyDemocrats representative said. “We are not registering voters, but we are getting a lot of encouraging feedback sharing information and materials.”

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