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Festival de la Familia 2011

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Festival de la Familia

Twenty years, Twenty Families was this year’s theme at the Festival de la Familia. Sunday’s attendance at the Festival’s 20th Anniversary Celebration exceeded expectation. Families began to line up at the entrance before the gates opened.

I met Veronica Delgado, Steering Committee Vice Chair of Festival de la Familia, at the entrance. She gave me an overview of the event. Veronica spent a lot of effort and energy helping to put the event together and had been at Cal Expo hours before the gates opened. Many of the Steering and Committee members have been preparing for the event for months and seemed to still be full of energy and pride as they raced around Cal Expo making sure things went according to plan. Their efforts were greatly appreciated by those in attendance.

Veronica Delgado (right), Nicole Zamora (center)

Cal Expo hosted the event where multiple stages and stations were set up for art, music and dance. Arts and crafts stations were set up at the Arts and Culture Pavilion and a children’s station was set up outside the pavilion as well.

Children’s art activities and entertainment took place at various areas. Vendors and sponsors also had many booths around for guests to sample and pick up information regarding goods and services available from many businesses around Sacramento.

Family traditions are many in our home and attending Festival de la Familia has become a tradition for the Alvarez household. In the past 20 years we’ve missed one or two but have made an effort to attend every year. I met Eleanor and Matt Sanchez who have attended each and every Festival since they moved to Sacramento from Phoenix.

Matt and Eleanor have three children but only one of them, 22 year old Rosa, was with them Sunday. Rosa was pushing a stroller and said this was the first time she’s attended with her husband Adam and 10 month old Mark. “I don’t remember why we missed last year’s Festival but when I found out that we missed it I thought about it the whole day. I hate to admit but it bothered me.” said Rosa. Her father Matt followed, “You know when they’re old enough to be on their own you don’t want to pester them. I called her and reminder Rosa about it but she must have forgotten. Besides she was very pregnant at the time.”

Rosa continued, “I think we’ll make it a point to either volunteer or buy tickets before hand and hopefully we don’t forget. Our son, Mark, enjoyed the music and the food. We love everything, the music, dancing, food and entertainment. I think this exposure is very valuable for ourselves and our children and will try to attend this and similar events.”

The weather was beautiful and perfect for being outdoors. This year’s Festival recognized 20 families whose support and involvement have been instrumental in the event’s legacy and longevity.

Children’s activities for the event focused on fitness and healthy eating. A bicycle was raffled off which also helped to promote healthy activities.

Festival de la Familia bike raffle

This year’s keynote speaker was Teddy Herrera. Teddy is currently riding his bicycle across the country to promote childhood obesity awareness. His 11,000-mile bike ride began last June. He spoke at the Cove Stage. Teddy enthusiastically spoke to the audience directing his comments to the young kids on hand. He relayed a story going back to a year ago in March. As his cousins played video games he encouraged them to go outdoors and enjoy the weather and physical activity.

Teddy Herrera, keynote speaker

Teddy went on to create an organization called Across America for Childhood Obesity. Teddy said his organization was created to “inspire kids of all sizes to get up get out and actively chase their dreams.” As he addressed the audience he continued, “You can be anything you decide to be, as long as you step outside your door and actively do it!”

Teddy shared his story as how he started his trek across America. “I got on my bike and started off with $36 in my pocket. I left with $36 because nobody believed in me. I got zero sponsorships. I heard ‘no’ a thousand times because sometimes when your dream is really big you’re going to hear ‘no’ because people aren’t going to believe in you but as long as you believe in yourself it’s possible.”

As Teddy continued with his inspirational story he indicated that he carried some Tupperware and went to restaurants/buffets after they closed and asked for food they may throw away at the end of the night and continued on his trek. He bicycled 100 miles each day eating what he was given and slept where he could. He traveled from Sacramento to Boston then Miami and to San Diego.

He indicated that he finished his 11,000 mile trip last week. His mom, grandmother and some of his cousins were on hand and he recognized them. “I did it for them too, to show us that we as a people are strong especially in this community of Sacramento. Our voices are so powerful they can be heard around the world and that’s what I wanted to show you guys. Anything is possible.” Teddy said as he continued to inspire those in attendance.

As Teddy began to end his address "No matter how big your dream is" Teddy said, "it’s going to get done when you make the decision to do it. Get outside and actually do it.” Teddy can be followed via facebook. He is also writing a children’s book this summer and going on tour once again in September. This time he’ll be riding 22,000 miles to show kids that anything is possible.

At the Cove Stage a presentation of a Scholarship Award to a Chico State student studying Latino Culture was presented. Elizabeth Vasquez was the recipient of the award. She is majoring in Business Marketing with a minor in Chicano Studies.

Elizabeth Vasquez, scholarship winner thanking Festival de la Familia

Hundreds of volunteers (450-500) were on hand to facilitate children’s activities, to provide event staff, help with dance and musical performances. Many were on hand serving as guides for the art exhibits.

Building A had an area reserved for dance lessons. Lessons for Bachata, Salsa, Rueda, Punta, Vallentano and Tango took place. Also in Building A many art exhibits were available for viewing and many artists were on hand to show off their work. Olmec, Aztec, Mayan and Inca civilizations were highlighted via history, cultural and art exhibits.

Festival de la Familia cultural exhibits

The Arts & Culture Pavilion also recognized many top artists, photographers and sculptors in various exhibits. The Literary Arts Performance allowed students to read poetry or re-enact literature scenes from favorite Latin American authors.

The Tower Stage hosted several bands and included a dance area that was quite popular throughout the day. Music from many Latin American countries was played and the audience could either sit and enjoy the music or take to the floor and dance.

Festival de la Familia at the Tower Stage area

I sat down with Nicole Zamora, Steering Committee Chair, who was also a member of one of the 20 families that was recognized at the Festival. Nicole went on to relay, “This is our 20th year and we thought what a better way to highlight out 20 years of service to the Sacramento Community than to highlight 20 families that have played an integral role in helping this event to go on. We chose the families based on the fact that it wasn’t just one person that volunteered it was essentially a family whether that was a mom and a dad or their kids, or brothers or cousins."

Nicole is the 2011 Festival Chair and serves on the Board of Directors. Her husband, Art, is also a board member. I asked if this year’s event was larger or the same as last year’s and Nicole seemed to think that it was bigger. She noted that they began to run out of seats at some of the stages and indeed it did appear there were more people not only at the stages but at the food and drink lines as well.

I asked Nicole about what she thought were some of the highlights of the event. “I really can’t pinpoint one of the music groups because every time I looked out there it seemed there was a good size crowd. Soccer did fairly well I saw a lot of kids out there. The Sacramento Gold did great in bringing their players out. The parade always draws a crowd.” Crowds were everywhere and those in attendance included children, parents and grandparents walking or sitting  together. Many were also with friends or other couples and all were having a good time creating a great family atmosphere.

Nicole went on to say that there were over 450 volunteers who signed up this year to work the festival. She went on to say that there is no limit to the number of volunteers. There is however a cut-off date when they can register by.

“My kids were here just in time for the 20 family celebration, so my two little boys were able to join me on stage so that was nice. They’re only two and four years old.” Nicole said. As we concluded our talk Nicole ended up by saying, “This is great because you can walk through the different areas. It flows very well and you can go outside and dance a little bit and also be educated. One of the biggest things that we as ‘Festival’ want to do is make sure the community at large understands our goal. It’s great to see people from all walks of life and cultures come together and celebrate our family with us.”

The Festival de la Familia  Board of Directors and Committee Chairs put together a successful family celebration. In a few months next year’s event will begin to be discussed by coordinators. Come experience next year’s celebration if you have not attended before and enjoy delicious food, wonderful art and culture, great music and enjoy dancing to some wonderful Latin rhythms. Festival de la Familia continues to enhance awareness, understanding and appreciation of Latino cultures, customs and traditions.

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