Plenty of fun planned for Tri-City Latino Festival

Spotted at the 3rd Annual Tri-City Latino Festival held at the South Commons Saturday September 12, 2015.
Spotted at the 3rd Annual Tri-City Latino Festival held at the South Commons Saturday September 12, 2015.

Mimi Woodson says the Tri-City Latino Festival in Columbus has become so popular that vendors and entertainers calling from around the country wanting to participate have been told there is no room.

But there will be plenty of room for people wishing to spend a day enjoying the Latino culture.

An estimated crowd of more than 8,000 took part last year.

Music, food, crafts and art from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Bolivia, Panama and other countries will be abundant at the free event, which runs from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday inside and outside the Columbus Civic Center.

“You don’t have to be Latino to enjoy the festival,” said Woodson, president of the Tri-City Latino Association and the festival chairwoman.

In fact, those not Latino may get the most out of it.

“Besides being a time for great fellowship, the festival is very educational,” Woodson said. “It is a good place to find out about different cultures.”

There will even be dance classes.

“The festival has something for everyone in the family,” said Elica Ojeda, vice president of the Tri-City Latino Association, noting there will be a special area with rides and games for the children.

“Local Latino people take a lot of pride in this festival,” she said.

Many representatives from the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning will make their presence known.

Music will be provided by local entertainers and international musicians such as recording artists Giro, a salsa singer from Puerto Rico, and Adolescent’s Orquesta, a salsa romantica group from Venezuela.

There will be a Zumba demonstration, a beauty contest and dance contest.

Woodson said profits from the festival will provide scholarships for students to attend academies at the Springer Opera House and Liberty Theatre. A donation will be made to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley.

This is the fourth year for the event, the brainchild of local businessman Harold “Lefty” Encarnacion, who died last year.

“We are keeping his dream alive,” Woodson said.

Woodson said the board of the Tri-City Latino Association talked about putting an end to the event, but the public demand was too great.

“And I just don’t mean the Latino community, either,” she said.

Woodson said the event is co-sponsored by the City of Columbus, Phenix City and Fort Benning.

Ojeda said the festival is a good way to show the diversity among the Latino community.

“Every country has something different,” she said. “It is not all the same.”

Larry Gierer: 706-571-8581, @lagierer

If you go

What: Tri-City Latino Festival featuring music, crafts, art and food from countries such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama and Columbia.

When: Saturday noon-8 p.m.

Where: Columbus Civic Center, 400 4th St.

Cost: Admission is free. Parking is free. Food and crafts will be available for purchase. Chairs may be brought to the event but no coolers.