Growing Hispanic festival a venue for celebration, outreach

 

12 HISPANO Citlali performs

Member of Citlali de Mexico perform a cultural dance stage at Festival Hispano.

MILLSBORO – For the better part of Sunday afternoon, Millsboro was one of the most populated towns south of the C & D Canal.

Accentuated with multicultural food, music and dancing, Hispanic heritage and culture were showcased at the 21st Festival Hispano, an event that drew several thousand festival-goers to the Millsboro Little League complex.

12 HISPANO lupe fransica lara

Burritos and tacos were popular purchases at Lupe’s during Festival Hispano. Preparing the meat is Fransica Lara, with her husband Lupe Lara, who come from Mexico every year for the festival. At right is their son, Homero Lara of Milford. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).

Back for a 21st year was Lupe’s, a popular burrito/taco vendor that lures Fransica and Lupe Lara and their culinary recipes from Mexico every summer.

“They come here every year just for the festival. They have all the secrets,” said Milford resident Homero Lara of his parents.

LaRed Health Center, another longtime festival staple, provided free health screenings, including blood pressure checks, and complimentary bunches of Chiquita bananas.

This year, the festival was orchestrated by La Esperanza, which took the baton from El Centro Cultural, the event’s primary organizer the previous 20 years.

12 HISPANO andrade burton

Kevin Andrade of Maxima 95.3 interviews Charlie Burton, president of La Esperanza’s board of directors at Festival Hispano.

“We have more staff and more personnel,” said Charlie Burton, La Esperanza board president. “Quite honestly it is a big event. It actually took more time than we thought. But you know on a day like today, all of the hard work really paid off.  It’s packed.”

Mr. Burton believes the festival will continue to experience growth spurts.

“I think quite honestly it is something that will keep growing every year and more and more people will want to be part of it, as we did this year,” said Mr. Burton. “Our vendors increased; our volunteers increased.”

On a return recruiting engagement, Lori Hudson, Indian River School District’s teacher recruiter, was on hand; offering information about employment opportunities in what is the fastest growing school district in Delaware with an increasing Hispanic student population.

12 HISPANO irsd parents children

Indian River School District’s teacher recruiting booth draws a crowd of parents and children during Festival Hispano.

“Last year’s went phenomenal. We have a great partnership with the Del Tech Community College,” said Ms. Hudson. “We are able to retain two teachers and several para-professionals. Most of them are bilingual.”

One of those 2014 recruits is Nicole Degirolano, at present a bilingual para-professional with Indian River’s APELL (Accelerating Pre–Literate English Language Learners) program.

Based at G.W. Carver Center in Frankford, APELL serves students ages 14 to 18 who need a more intensive form of instruction than traditional high school English Language Learners programs can provide.

“The mission of our program is to get students that have had gaps in their education to get fill those gaps basically, and get them ready for life in the high school – where there is a bigger population and it is a little bit scarier and a little bit harder. The rigor is very high,” said Ms. Degirolano. “So what we are trying to do is get them prepared for that kind of environment.”

“Nicole has been a huge asset for us,” said Ms. Hudson.

Last school year, the Indian River district received 70 undocumented/unaccompanied minors – the lion’s share of 117 minors statewide.

“They are going to be transitioned back into their home high schools this year,” said Ms. Hudson.

12 HISPANO courtney hilliard ramos blood pressure la red

Courtney Hilliard, a medical assistant with La Red Health Center, gives Paul Ramos of Frankford a free blood pressure check.

“As far as the English part of it is, we want them to get enough English language so that when they do go over (to high school) they are comfortable speaking to people, they are comfortable asking for help, talking to their peers … so that they don’t feel lost or isolated,” Ms. Degirolano said.

“We are the fastest growing Hispanic population in the entire state. We are 28 percent Hispanic now,” said Ms. Hudson. “The Indian River district is the fastest growing district in the state right now. We just surpassed 10,000 students.”

The festival also affords Ms. Hudson an opportunity to meet and greet Hispanic families.

“Not only am I here recruiting obviously, but it’s a good outreach to the community,” said Ms. Hudson. “The students see me as I go through the schools and take potential teachers on tours. So the students know who I am. For them to make a connection … they get excited about it.”

Festival Hispano organizers peg the event as a bridge linking the past, present and future.  The hope is that bridge spans non-Hispanic people as well.

“There is a large population of Latino and Hispanic. There is a lot of unknown as there is with a lot of cultures, and differences. This event lets people come in and enjoy the food, the culture, the people, the music,” said Mr. Burton. “And they are great people. They are good, loving, family-oriented people that want to be a part of our community. I think we ought to welcome them with open arms. They pay rent. They buy cars. They are in the stores. They are a big economic source and I think fear that people may have or the unknown about them … we need to open up and welcome them into our community more than we have. We’re hoping this event just does that.”

12 HISPANO Maxima radio personalities la pulga

Maxima 95.3 on-air radio personalities ham it up at Festival Hispano. From left, La Pulga, La Turca and D.J. Wicho.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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