Hispanic Festival draws thousands

Staff Report

The 17th Annual Hispanic Festival at St. Jude Parish was another rousing success as an estimated 14,000 descended on the Sarasota Parish on Nov. 9 for a day filled with food, fun and entertainment.

The annual festival is a celebration of both the individual nations and the unified culture of a diverse people. Held annually in early November, the day includes musical performances, ethnic dancers and food from many nations. Throughout the parish grounds were tents full of a wide variety of food that left many mouths watering.

Cooler temperatures energized everyone as the celebration of more than a dozen countries lasted from morning until after sunset. Many wore shirts proclaiming to everyone their country of origin.

Throughout the day, there were performances from a variety of countries, offering both modern and traditional music and dance.

Isabella Rios, 12, enjoyed her papas rellenas from the Cuban food tent, which is a meat-filled potato ball, while listening to one of the rock bands before watching flamenco dancers perform. “The food is great, but I like the music and the dancers best.”

Father Celestino Gutierrez, Pastor of St. Jude, officially opened the Hispanic Festival with a prayer. This followed a “Parade of Flags” when each country represented at the festival was announced, and the respective flags brought forward to cheers from the crowd.

Whether it was the food, the music, the dancing or the joy of being around so many happy people, the Hispanic Festival was rated a massive success by any measure.

Thousands attend the event annually from as far away as Naples and Clearwater. It has become a much-anticipated event for the ethnically diverse Sarasota Parish. All of the proceeds of the Hispanic Festival go to support the various outreach efforts of the Parish, including helping countless families throughout the year.

As a bilingual Parish, the members of both the English and the Spanish speaking congregation participated and volunteered to staff the booths.  This annual Festival is the oldest one in Sarasota County to feature authentic Latino food, music and culture.