April 30, 2015
The sights, sounds and tastes of the Latino community will fill Church Street on Saturday at the first Cinco de Mayo Festival in uptown Martinsville.
The free festival will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. on Church Street. It will feature nearly 45 vendors with authentic Latino arts, crafts, wares and food, as well as some uptown merchants offering sidewalk sales and specials. There will be children's crafts and carnival-type games as well as a Tackfully Teamed horse that children can paint a handprint on, according to Tammy Liston, assistant director of the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association (MURA).
The local band Ruta 58 (that is Route 58 in English, and reflects where the band members live) and a Salsa dancer will perform in the Broad Street Parking Lot across from Martin Plaza. A Mariachi band will play in the area near Church and Bridge streets from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., and guitar players also will perform.
A beer garden will be held all day and all evening in the Broad Street lot.
Church Street will be closed to traffic from Bridge to Lester streets.
Sharon Ortiz-Garcia of the Latino Community Council, which is working with MURA to organize the festival, said she understands that authentic tacos, tostados and other Mexican dishes will be available for sale. Also, corn will be prepared as it is in Mexico, she said.
From 6:30 to 10 p.m., a concert featuring the band Dark Water Redemption will be held at the Broad Street Parking Lot. There will be a $5 fee for the concert for adults; children will be admitted free.
Food and inflatables for children will continue to be available during the concert hours.
The festival is being held to welcome the Latino community into the city's uptown district and invite people of all races and cultures to come together for a community celebration, according to information from The Harvest Foundation.
The festival also will raise awareness of what uptown Martinsville has to offer to people of all races, religions and ages, according to Harvest.
Harvest has approved a $6,545 Pick Up the Pace! (PUP) grant to the Latino Community Council for the communications, rentals and security for the festival.
The funding is part of Harvest's small grants program, which is designed to engage more people and organizations in the transformation of Martinsville and Henry County. The goal is to encourage everyone to “pick up the pace” to make this a community of choice.
The festival, according to Ortiz-Garcia, will be a "fun day with entertainment for adults, entertainment for children and arts and crafts associated with Cinco de Mayo."
Cinco de Mayo, which is Spanish for Fifth of May, is a national holiday in Mexico that honors that country's 1862 military victory over the French, according to Encyclopedia Britannica online.
It is an important day for Mexico, and is celebrated with parades, speeches and, in some cities, reenactments of the Battle of Puebla, the website states.
Ortiz-Garcia said organizers hope the festival will become an annual event.
Working on the event from the Latino Community Council are Ortiz-Garcia, Pastor Jaime Herrera and Maite Arroyo.
The Latino council's roots stem from a Harvest-initiated community health strategic planning process two years ago. Participants recognized that the Latino population was the fastest growing segment in Henry County.
One of the first Harvest PUP grants was awarded for a Latino health fair, and the Latino Community Council spun off from that.