Festival Cultural welcomes crowd to enjoy Hispanic entertainment | News, Sports, Jobs - Times Republican

Music washed over West End Park on Sunday afternoon as people from both inside and outside of the Marshalltown community wandered through the Festival Cultural, looking at vendors’ wares and sampling cuisine from the different food trucks available.

This year was the second time this event has been held, and all indicators point to it becoming an annual staple in the Marshalltown community. Ethnic entertainment drew huge crowds throughout the afternoon, and in addition to a professional salsa performance and a folkloric dance performance, three different local Hispanic bands played along with another from Chicago.

Zamora Fresh Market provided piñatas for children to take turns cracking open, and several vendors showed off their products. Four different food trucks surrounded West End Park catering to eager event goers.

Wendy Soltero, one of the three organizers of the event, said this year’s Festival Cultural, presented by the Marshall County Arts and Culture Alliance, was bigger than the 2021 rendition, with more food and more entertainment, and many community members were eager to be involved.

“When we see other cities around, like in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, places like that, they have less Hispanic population than ours, well, Des Moines obviously has a big population, but there’s some other ones that they’re doing their festivals, because it’s Hispanic Heritage Month, and we really didn’t have anything,” Soltero said. “It really felt like people — our community, was hungry and was anxious to have something like this.”

The growth the event experienced in just one year was something Soltero was excited about, and because of that growth, she hopes to see it continue for years to come. Soltero said that people seemed excited about it too, as many individuals reached out to her to see how they could participate.

“Usually, it doesn’t matter how much, or how you advertise different events, there’s always people ‘Oh, how come we didn’t know about it? We didn’t hear about it,’ you know? But, at the same time, this year, I am finding out more people that, the reason that people are reaching out to me, even like people who want to be vendors and stuff, I’m like, we were not ready for that this year but maybe next year, we will be,” Soltero said. “That was not the idea to have vendors, but just the fact that there are people reaching out, and they’re like ‘OK,’ that means that the word is out.”

The sponsors of the event — presenting sponsor Members First Community Credit Union and supporting sponsors, La Carreta Mexican Grill, A&A Concrete and Zamora Fresh Market — were able to set up tables. There were a few vendors selling artisan goods, but the number was limited. Now that there is possible interest for vendors, Soltero said that it’s something they may consider expanding next year.

While the festival has been planned by a small group for the last couple of years, with this year’s team consisting solely of Soltero, Arts and Culture Alliance Executive Director Amber Danielson and local band member Johnny Corral, Soltero said in the future, as it grows, a committee will probably be necessary to plan the event.

Soltero also wants to open the festival up to other cultures in the community too, in order to have an all-inclusive event that shows off the proud heritage of the Marshalltown populace.

“My idea is, like I said, make it grow and incorporate different cultures. Not just Hispanic or not just Mexican,” Soltero said. “Eventually, my dream will be to incorporate other cultures, and really make it a cultural — like more diverse, to showcase the rich diversity that we have in our town.”

Soltero feels the Festival Cultural is important for a myriad of reasons. Not only does the event open up the lines of communication between community members to make way for learning and education, but it also gives people from the showcased cultures a little taste of home.

“My idea for this, is just to have people come, of all backgrounds and everything, to experience and, a quote that I always say, is culture brings everybody together, and events like this can bring people to experience other cultures without leaving their hometown,” Soltero said. “Learn and educate, and once you do that, then everybody can see other people as you know, we’re equals. We live in this community, we cohabitate here, so might as well understand each other and learn to appreciate our differences and what everybody can contribute. That’s how our town is going to continue to grow and be successful.”

Danielson echoed Soltero’s feelings, and she was excited to welcome community members and even a few out-of-town visitors to the festival.

“We just feel that it’s so important to celebrate all of the diversity in our community. We had such success last year, and it just continues to grow,” Danielson said. “I’m just excited to see people show up and you know, it’s awareness and education. And just a completely new experience for some of the people in our community to be able to experience other cultures right here locally.”

Corral, who is a member of the local band Los De La Villa, was in charge of the music for the festival, and he managed to bring in local bands Junior y su Norteño, Los Aliados, his own band, Los De La Villa, as well as Chicago band Código 47.

Corral played at last year’s event, but when he was asked if he could help put together the music for this year’s festival, he was happy to help.

“I think it was very important because I see it as a growing event for every year, an annual event. Also, I wanted to come out as a part of the community,” Corral said. “Last year, we did it, and it was just us performing, which I’m from Los De La Villa, but this year we had to make it bigger, we just had to make it bigger, a lot more music. There’s a lot of local talent around that I think should be heard, and this is a great opportunity to do that.”

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