The second annual Tri-City Latino Festival will celebrate diversity, while at the same time promoting the idea of One Columbus, organizers said Thursday.
The festival, which is free to the public, will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, at the South Commons at 400 4th Street in Columbus. The ceremony will start at noon and the main show at 5 p.m., featuring big-name Latin artists. In between, there will be a coronation of a pageant queen and other cultural activities.
Plans were announced Thursday at a 9 a.m. news conference held at the Columbus Civic Center.
Councilwoman Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson said the festival, co-sponsored by the Columbus Urban League, will highlight the diversity in the Tri-City area, which includes Columbus, Phenix City and Fort Benning. She thanked the greater Columbus community for embracing the festival, which highlights the cultures of a diverse Hispanic population representing about 21 different nationalities. She made specific mention of Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Columbus State University, Winn Dixie, Coca Cola, Aflac and other companies.
“If you are a partner with this festival, you’re doing the right thing,” she said. “Because this is a love of hearts. Nobody is making any money. Everybody is just networking and showing the true meaning of our community. A one Columbus, a tri-city, a family that embraces each other. And the Latin Festival is a living testimony of that.”
Last year, the festival made its debut, attracting about 4,000 to 5,000 people in the pouring rain, organizers said. This year, they expect to attract about 8,000 to 10,000.
“If inclement weather comes, we’ll be prepared to move inside the Civic Center,” said Tito Aron, festival event coordinator. Woodson said people can bring chairs, umbrellas and other items.
“But I would say please don’t bring your coolers,” she said. “Because we want to give an opportunity for the vendors who invested into the festival to be able to profit so they can come back in the future.”
She said it’s also important that parents stay with their kids in the Kid Zone because the festival has limited staff for supervision.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said she was amazed at the success of last year’s event despite the rainy weather.
“It was incredible to see the number of people that turned out, the number of vendors, the festivities that were occurring and just the general enthusiasm of everybody as we celebrated the continued broadening of our community,” she said. “This is a partnership with Columbus, Phenix City and Fort Benning. We couldn’t do it without anyone of those three legs of our stool. And it’s a partnership with some tremendously generous sponsors.”
Aron said performers will come from bigger cities from New York to Florida. The main performer will be Tito Rojas, a salsa singer and bandleader who dominated the Latin Billboards in the 1990s and won a double Platinum Record Award.
Other artists will include Ralphy Santana, Tonny Tun Tun, Tuty Perez, the Devastadores, the Atlanta Show Band and local artists Dj Julio and Dj Ceelo.
Types of music will include Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Hip Hop and gospel.
“We’ll have a little bit of everything for everybody’s taste,” Aron said.
He said committee has marketed the festival at other Latino events in Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., Maryland and New York, and rooms have already been reserved at area hotels.
Woodson said the festival has captured the attention of Latino artists all over the country, who are now calling local organizers about coming to Columbus.
“And these aren’t just local artists. We’re talking about Latin Grammy winners. We’re talking about nominees for Latin Grammy awards," she said. "We’re talking about upcoming artists."
Woodson said people in bigger cities are taking notice and asking how Columbus is able to attract so many popular performers.
“And all I can say is it’s a blessing from God and the community that we live in,” she said.