Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Washington’s Central Park was a hub of Hispanic culture Saturday for the annual Latino Festival.
All afternoon and into the night, the Square was alive with Latino music, food, exhibits, art and merchandise for everyone in the community to experience.
“It’s so important to share this event, not just with the Latino community, but all the people in the community,” Martha Hernandez of Latinos for Washington said. “I hope everyone who came out to see it enjoyed it.”
Hernandez said Saturday night that she believes this year’s turnout for the festival was one of their best.
“We had a really good turnout this year,” Hernandez said. “I think it was one of the best turnouts we’ve had over all the ones we’ve had in the past.”
The festival kicked off around noon with a welcome from Mayor Jaron Rosien.
“I’m so happy to say hello and welcome,” Rosien said, alternating between Spanish and English. “It’s wonderful to be here, and it’s wonderful to have all of you here. Thank you for taking the time to celebrate in Washington, Iowa.”
Rosien and Jacqueline Arreola, also of Latinos for Washington, presented scholarship awards to two local students, Lorena Diaz and Yulisma Torres.
“I would like to say thank you to everyone who pushed me to do better in school and all my friends who helped me get through it,” Diaz said.
Torres, a student at the University of Iowa, was not able to attend the presentation.
The opening musical act was the Mariachi Sirenas from Chicago.
“That type of music is mostly all men,” Hernandez said. “We found this group that was all women. I think people were excited to see that.”
Following the performance, Hernandez took the stage to award a plaque of appreciation to former Washington County Public Health Director Danielle Pettit-Majewski.
Hernandez praised Majewski for reaching out to the Latino community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
A tearful Pettit-Majewski credited Hernandez, who also works for Washington County Public Health, for facilitating the outreach.
“Working with Martha was such a gift because she was able to connect us to the community and help so much,” Pettit-Majewski said. “I’m so honored. Thank you for trusting me and the advice that we gave.”
As the afternoon turned into evening, the crowd continued to steadily grow.
“I have to say we got a lot more people towards the end of the day,” Hernandez said. “We had a lot of people show up in the evening.
“The food vendors extended their hours because there were so many people.”
Banda Tentadora closed the festival and had the festival-goers dancing.
“We closed with a band, and we still have people out dancing at the park,” Hernandez said. “I think that was a great closer.”
Hernandez said that this year’s festival was different from past ones.
“In the past, we always had the event on a Sunday, and a lot of people work on Monday,” she said. “I think people really liked that it was on a Saturday.
“People were able to come out and stay later and have fun.
It was also traditionally held in the summer. This year, the decision was made to coordinate the festival with National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
“I think we’re going to keep it with this time of year,” Hernandez said. “It worked out well.”