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Latino Heritage Festival Makes A Comeback After COVID

Ruben Rodriguez
Iowa's Latino Heritage Festival Facebook
Iowa's Latino Heritage Festival is back for 2021 after being canceled due to COVID-19 last year. Organizers are looking forward to bringing the different Latino cultures of Iowa back to attendees.

Iowa's Latino Heritage Festival will be back this weekend after two rough years.

In 2019, it rained during the outdoor festival in downtown Des Moines. Then 2020’s was canceled because of COVID-19.

Now, organizers are looking forward to a comeback.

Executive director Joe Gonzalez said he’s glad the weather forecast looks good for the weekend. And this year, there are even more sponsors to help make up for two years of lower earnings. Gonzalez estimates this is one of the best years in terms of sponsors. The festival has 13 new ones in addition to sponsors from the past.

“It’s really, really special to us, you know, that there's so much interest and people want to be a part of it," he said.

There will be food, music and activities honoring the different Latino cultures represented in Iowa's population.

“This time is going to be even a greater learning experience because of taking the time off. And then also because we're, you know, a little bit smaller than usual," Gonzalez said.

There are fewer exhibitors than in past years. Gonzalez attributed that to some hesitation with the pandemic and groups made their decisions earlier in the year. Pandemic precautions are also what make it difficult to predict the turnout, he said. The festival will be outdoors and the exhibitors will be spaced out.

But, Gonzalez said, that won’t take away from any of the fun and education.

It costs $5 to attend and proceeds go to future festivals. (People can leave and come back throughout the day with no extra cost.) Gonzalez said the funds raised during the 2019 festival and the help from sponsors enabled the festival stay afloat after the 2020 event had to be canceled.

The funds also go toward scholarships for Latino students. During opening day, the Iowa Latino Heritage Festival will hand out 23 $1000 scholarships, five of which are from the festival's own funds. The others are from sponsors.

Gonzalez said he hopes people "come away knowing that we're very diverse, even within our culture," he said. "It's a good education for the general community and what better way to kind of learn about music, song, dance, a little bit of art and just getting together?"

The festival starts this Saturday at 11 a.m. and goes through Sunday. Parking is free on Sunday downtown, and on Saturday, attendees can park in the Nationwide parking ramp free of charge.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines