By Elise Franco
Dozens of people took to downtown to enjoy Spanish beats and authentic cuisine during the Second Annual Spanish Heritage Festival.
Carlos Rivera, festival organizer and treasurer of the Youngstown Spanish Heritage Festival Committee, said he remembers a similar festival years ago that ended in the ’90s, Last year, he and a few others decided to bring a Spanish heritage-based event back to the Mahoning Valley.
“There’s a festival for everything else, all different cultures and events,” he said. Youngstown has such a large Hispanic community on the East Side, so we wanted to bring the community out and share our culture.”
Rivera said last year the event was for one day, but the committee expanded it to two days this year. He said Saturday was successful and he expects a good turnout for today as well.
“People have been in and out all day,” he said about Saturday’s crowd. “I’m very happy with the response.”
The festival runs from noon to 8 p.m. today on East Federal Street, downtown, between Market and Walnut streets. Folks who venture down to the event should expect a variety of food vendors, including Spanish and American, live entertainment, dancing, kid-friendly activities and an amateur wrestling competition throughout the afternoon.
Mary Cruz, parishioner of the Spanish Evangelical Church on South Avenue in Youngstown, said church members would be on hand all weekend to talk with those stopping by the event.
“We want to let people know there is hope for this city,” she said. Cruz said this festival is an important event because the Hispanic community is widespread in Youngstown. “We’re a great part of this community.”
Marta Echevestre of New York said she was in town for a wedding when her sister, Maria Echevestre, mentioned the festival going on downtown.
“My sister and mom are here with me; they told me about it,” Marta said. “It’s nice — not the way we have them in New York, but it’s nice.”
Maria said she also was enjoying herself. “We’re party people. We like to have fun and dance and get along together.”
Maria said she frequents most summer festivals but was happy to see one based on her own heritage come back to the city.
“It’s good to be represented here,” she said. “We need more Spanish representation.”
Rivera said the festival is based in Spanish heritage, but he encourages all residents to check it out.
“It’s fun and family-friendly, with good music and good food,” he said.