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Saturday festival aims to bring more Latinos into Charlotte’s uptown

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/02/20/59/TJbs8.Em.138.jpeg|225
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    FILE - Four-year-old Randy Mayo plays with a soap bubble gun near his parents Maria Rodriguez and Samuel Mayo's food tent last year during the inaugural "Hola Charlotte."
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/02/20/59/VaXXY.Em.138.jpeg|215
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    FILE - Luisa Agathon, with the Latin American Women's Association, claps to the beat of the music as youth dancers performed last year's "Hola Charlotte."

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    The HOLA Charlotte Hispanic Heritage Festival is free and runs from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday on North Tryon Street between Sixth and Eighth streets, and along Seventh Street in front of the Levine Museum of the New South. Discovery Place will offer discounted admission and the Levine Museum will have free admission for the day. Details holacharlottefestival.com.



What began last year as a Hispanic cultural experiment is predicted to draw 24,000 people into uptown Charlotte on Saturday.

That’s double the crowd that attended the 2012 HOLA Charlotte Hispanic Heritage Festival. Bigger still is the number of venues backing the event, including Discovery Place, the Levine Museum of the New South, ImaginOn and 7th Street Public Market. That’s up from one museum last year.

Norsan Media, a Hispanic media conglomerate based in Atlanta, launched the festival last year as part of a push to elevate the community’s celebration of Hispanic culture.

Pamela Sanchez of Norsan Media said they expected 10,000 to attend last year, but 12,000 people turned out, even though it rained much of the day.

Charlotte has other Hispanic cultural events, including some sponsored by Norsan. Most are in parks across the city, she said.

“To be completely honest, there is a feeling that some Hispanics don’t feel comfortable going into uptown, whether it’s due to a language barrier or something else. They would rather stay on the outskirts of the city,” Sanchez said.

“We felt it was important for Hispanics to feel welcomed in uptown and took the initiative to change things. Closing down a street in uptown for the day is a big step toward recognizing this population.”

The event will feature dance exhibitions, live music and Latin food, along with a village showcasing the culture of 10 Latin American countries.

Sanchez said Charlotte Center City Partners gets a lot of credit for the event’s growing support among uptown cultural facilities.

“Last year, we listened and we watched, and what we saw was an opportunity to make something bigger,” said Robert Krumbine, chief creative officer for Center City Partners. “What’s in uptown is not here for a select number of people. Everybody needs to feel welcomed.”

Uptown sites like the Mint Museum and the Levine Museum are trying to draw in a larger Hispanic audience, by using tactics such as bilingual exhibits and outreach consultants.

Tom Hanchett of the Levine Museum cited a recent Nielsen Latino market survey that showed Charlotte’s Hispanic population is growing faster than in any other region in the country. That’s based on 2000 to 2013 data.

“There are lots of reasons for us to be involved in this event, and one of them is that the Latino population is making history now in Charlotte,” Hanchett said.

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