After 12 years on the grounds of the Mint Museum, the annual Latin American Festival is relocating to Symphony Park at South Park this year. The festival will be from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
“We'd started to outgrow the facilities at the Mint, really, for parking and traffic. It's a residential neighborhood, and we recognized that it couldn't stay there forever,” explains Jess George, associate director of the Latin American Coalition.
George says the central location outside SouthPark mall should give the festival more exposure. “We're moving to a location that has the parking and infrastructure that makes it accessible to the greater public.”
A collaboration between the Latin American Coalition, the Mint Museum and the Latin American Women's Association, Festival LatinoAmericano began on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College 18 years ago. This year, more than 25,000 people are expected to attend the event, which features a variety of entertainment, arts and crafts, food, and activities rooted in Latin American culture.
One of the advantages to the new location is Symphony Park's sound.
“We will be using the band shell at Symphony Park as our main musical stage,” explains the Latin American Coalition's Tony Arreaza, who books the acts. “We will be using Symphony Park and part of the adjoining parking lot, so sound issues won't arise.”
This year's live music includes performances from Richmond's fusion salsa octet Bio Ritmo; Atlanta's 10-member Mariachis De Pepe Lopez; and Miami's multicultural Bachaco, whose Colombian, Venezuelan and Jamaican members mix cumbia, hip-hop, Latin funk and ska. Other invited bands come from Brazil, New York, Charlotte and Concord.
Dance groups representing countries from Central and South America, Mexico and Spain will perform throughout the day. Children's activities are also a big part of the event. Instead of a children's stage, this year the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center is hosting a children's activity tent where kids can create handmade costumes and noisemakers and learn bilingual children's songs.