Fiesta in Florissant FREE event

Fiesta in Florissant, a free event to the public, will mark its 17th year of bringing Hispanic food, culture and music to St. Louis County 

By Charlotte Beard

According to July 2018 Census Bureau data, there is a population of 28,911 identified as Latino/Hispanic in St. Louis County with 1,589 of that population being in Florissant alone. One of The Hispanic Festival, Inc. (HFI) missions is to help increase regional awareness of the cultural contributions made by Hispanics in the various arts. 

For 17 years now, the group led by Haniny Hillberg, a native Bolivian and active member in the Hispanic community, has aimed to carry out that mission by hosting Fiesta in Florissant, one of its two annual Hispanic festivals. Fiesta in Florissant, a free event to the public, will take place at the Knights of Columbus Park, 50 Rue Saint Francois St, located near the corner of Lindbergh and Washington in Florissant. The event will take place Saturday, June 22 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, June 23 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Elisa Bender, one of HFI’s board members, shares what attendees can expect Saturday during the day prior to the Fiesta Car Show which will be begin at 12 p.m. and the 5 p.m. Welcoming Ceremony with remarks from Florissant Mayor Tim Lowery.

“We’re kicking off the morning with a Zumba class,” stated Bender. “We will have dancers throughout the day – Mexican and Columbian dancers. We will have a Brazilian band a little earlier in the day (followed by) a Latin Caribbean band.”

HFI states this year attendees can expect to see dances that involve salsa, bachata, cumbia and flamenco. The dancers will be from various countries including Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico. South American and Mexican music will be performed by Banda Artilleros Mexican Band, Latin Groove Salsa Band from Chicago, Tropical Mood Band and Ritmo Latino Band.

Sunday at 2 p.m., attendees can expect a new edition to this year’s line-up – “Viva la Flor” Selena Tribute. The show will commemorate 25 years since her last concert.

“We have a local band, (Tropical Mood), who put together two sets of all of Selena’s songs. Selena was Como la flor (like the flower). She liked white roses, so we’re handing out about 100 long stem white roses. We have an artist coming to do a portrait of Selena during the two-hour performance and some Selena-inspired drinks. It’s just something new we’re doing this year that we’re really excited about.”

The Seventh Annual Miss Chiquita Bonita Contest will take place at 3 p.m. and the Fourth Annual Quinceanera Show will be at 4 p.m. The latter show will feature formal dresses and reenactments of the Hispanic tradition.

Both days of the festival, children will be able to enjoy folk arts and crafts, the Los Niños Kids Corner with piñatas, pony rides, inflatable rides, face painting and Hispanic hands-on crafts. Attendees can purchase a variety of Latin and South American foods such as tamales, tacos and empanadas.  Beverages and water will also be available for purchase.

In addition to the festivities and food, HFI is ensuring that the event serves to connect the public with the programs and services of cultural organizations and community services. 

“We have a lot of cultural organizations who assist with the Hispanic community who have resources,” stated Bender. “Give Kids a Smile, a not-for-profit that gives all free dental work twice a year – they are trying to reach out to the Hispanic community. So, they will be there. There is a new local Hispanic radio station — they will be there (broadcasting) our event. They are new, so people can become familiar with the local Hispanic stations.”

The funds raised from the sale of beverages and water at the festival will further HFI’s mission in providing scholarships.

Bender shares, “We are able to pull the scholarship money from that pool of money we made the year before. We will award up to two scholarships at the Welcoming Ceremony. There are not a lot of resources out there for Hispanic children, and particularly for those who come from immigrant parents – their parents have not gone beyond high school. So, those children trying to go beyond high school they don’t know. We try to do a good job at reaching out to that community in encouraging them to further their education and get them to apply. Our scholarship application I think is pretty simple.”

There is an essay component which provides the applicant an opportunity to share their accomplishments or what the Hispanic community means to them.

All members of HFI are volunteers and come from many different professional backgrounds: marketing, customer service, human resources, information technology, finance, sales, fundraising, and entertainment. The committee members are made up of Hispanics, Anglo Americans and African Americans.

Bender encourages attendees to bring their lawn chairs to the two-day festival. 

“Sit down in the shade under a tree or under the pavilion,” stated Bender, “and just enjoy the music and dancers. Enjoy the food all day long.”

Fiesta in Florissant is being made possible to due grants and a host of sponsors. HFI’s funders are listed on its website. For more information call 314-837-6100 or visit www.hispanicfestivalstl.com.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos Fiesta in Florissant, a free event to the public, will take place at the Knights of Columbus Park, 50 Rue Saint Francois St, located near the corner of Lindbergh and Washington in Florissant.