parade of flags

The Hispanic Festival of Polk County this Saturday will have a few additions to its traditional mix of music, dance, crafts and foods from Latin America and Spain. For one, it will be televised by Telemundo. In addition, there will be a new writers corner at the companion art show. And those looking for an alcohol kick can try Gasolina Party Pouches.

The organizers expect around 20,000 people to attend the event, which takes place from noon to 8 p.m. along the east shore of Lake Mirror. For the second year, admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 or under with a paying adult.

The festival has grown substantially since it started 18 years ago. Entertainment has escalated from local teen acts to national/international names, such as this year’s headliner, salsa singer and actor Frankie Negrón.

The festival is sponsored by Club Hispanico de Lakeland, a nonprofit organization, and proceeds fund scholarships for Hispanic students at Polk Community College, police and fire academies and technical schools.

The addition of the $5 admission fee last year more than doubled the amount the club raised for scholarships from $14,000 to $34,000, club President Viviana Pedroso said.

From a previous festival:

Hispanic Festival by Tierra Thomas from YLakeland on Vimeo.

In the past, about 20 percent of visitors came from outside of Polk, but organizers are expecting to double that proportion since Telemundo Tampa Bay has signed on as the presenting broadcaster and has promoted the festival heavily on its TV network.

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The art show, which takes place from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Magnolia Building, includes the works of 30 artists and this year introduces a writers corner, with seven authors displaying and talking about their books. One of them is Raul Chao, whose books about Cuba include Three Days in March.

His wife, Olga Chao, is coordinator of the art show, which this year is partnering with Polk State College to present the work of Chilean artist Omar Martinez .

A companion show at PSC’s Lakeland Art Gallery next Monday through Thursday is Martinez’ first solo North American exhibit. The gallery, open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is located in the Lakeland Technology Building (LTB).

One other new addition, Pedroso says, are the Gasolina Party Pouches that replace the mojitos available in the past. The Hispanic Club is partnering with Pan American Properties to sell the tropical cocktails. Since they come in ready-made pouches, they’ll be faster to serve and less messy than the mojitos, she said.

The festival begins at noon with a march of flags representing various Hispanic nations. Musical performances take place throughout the day.

This video from last year’s festival went viral on YouTube:

YouTube Poster

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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