Festival to celebrate culture

On Sunday, Aug. 23, from noon to 6 p.m., Festival Hispano will be held at the Millsboro Little League Complex. Organized by El Centro Cultural, a nonprofit organization funded by the Delaware Division of Arts, the festival will highlight the heritage and cultures of the local Hispanic community.

Allison Burris Castellanos, treasurer of El Centro Cultural and a member of the committee to organize the festival, invited people of all ages and backgrounds to attend.

“It’s really a family-oriented event. The large majority of the people that attend the event are members of the Hispanic community. Lots of people from the English-speaking community come because they bring their children to see these beautiful traditional clothes and musical instruments, and art forms.”

Castellanos first became involved in the organization 12 years ago, volunteering as an interpreter in the Spanish community, and the relationship grew from there. El Centro Cultural sponsors different activities throughout the year but this is by far their biggest event.

Last year, approximately 5,000 people attended the event, and Castellanos said she believes there will be just as many this year – especially since they have a lot to celebrate.

“This is our 15th anniversary, so we’re really excited to celebrate,” she said. “It’s one day a year that a lot of people in the community look forward to. It’s kind of a family reunion for the Hispanic community, in a lot of ways. I think, for children who have grown up with the event, it’s really important for them. They come out and enjoy the event, but they also feel very proud about their cultural heritage.”

Children are an important part of the day. A whole section of the field is designated as a children’s area, with an information booth for families, a moon bounce, tennis games, children’s music and a piñata to be broken every hour.

There will also be an abundance of musical performances from many local artists.

“In previous years, we’ve invited a bigger musical group from out of the area but we really felt like for our 15th anniversary, we really appreciate the local artists that perform year after year,” said Castellanos. “They don’t have that many opportunities to perform in this area. It’s not like we’re in Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia, where there are many, many kinds of events like this. So we’re just really excited that we can have the event year after year and that we can celebrate with the community.”

A dozen groups will perform during the day. Dances from Mexico, Spain and Chile will be presented, as well as many different types of music from Colombia and Guatemala, to name a few.

“We’re excited to give them the opportunity to perform, and their family and their friends and their church groups can come out to watch them and to support them. I think one of the important things of the festival is helping artists to be able to continue to practice their art forms,” Castellanos noted.

Funding is provided through a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts but also through the generosity of local businesses.

“We have support from large businesses in the area, like Perdue Farms and Mountaire Farms. We also have support from our local hospitals, Beebe Medical Center and Bay Health Medical Center, who both support the event. We have a lot of small businesses in the area that support the event, and they come out and have a table and share information about their business or services.”

Approximately 60 vendors and exhibitors will be at the festival to distribute information to the attending community.

Castellanos also expressed gratitude for support for the event from the town of Millsboro.

“We really appreciate the fact that Millsboro invites us each year. They make us feel very welcome and they help us. The town is really wonderful and very supportive of the community. Not every town is open having this kind of event of this scale,” she said.

With music, dancing, and kids’ games, people might be swept up by the culture – but don’t forget about the food!

“We do have food vendors. We have lots of tacos, which is everyone’s favorite! We have fajitas, and we have these things called ‘pupusas,’ which are from El Salvador, which are like two tortillas together with meat in the middle. We have a food vendor that is making food from Puerto Rico, which is very popular. It has rice and beans, fried plantains, corn-on-the-cob and all kinds of drinks.”

With an array of local artists, singers and dancers, activities and food, Festival Hispano has been a hit for the whole family. But Castellanos again emphasized the special importance of the event for children.

“I like to remind people it’s where their parents came from. Most of the children were born here. They were born in Lewes, or born in Milford, or born in Seaford. But their parents came from somewhere else and brought this rich cultural heritage with them,” she said.

“We want children to be able to know about their heritage and to appreciate it, and for all of us who are from this area to kind of appreciate what the immigrant community has brought to this area, contributed to this area.”

For more information on Festival Hispano, call (302) 745-6828 or e-mail festivalhispano@hotmail.com.