Scholarship fundraiser Festival las Americas moves to Cinco de Mayo |

Scholarship fundraiser Festival las Americas moves to Cinco de Mayo

Carla Jean Whitley

Dig into tacos and other cuisine. Dance to a bicultural mariachi band. Salt the rim and raise a margarita.

There are plenty of reasons to attend Festival las Americas, but its purpose goes beyond entertainment. Roaring Fork Rotary, also known as Club Rotario, organizes the annual event to fund Colorado Mountain College scholarships.

“We’re always taught — and it’s so true — with education, you get ahead,” said Klaus Kocher, a member and a CMC photography instructor. “The great equalizer [is] education.”

The 16th annual event is the first to be held on Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican celebration that recalls the country’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It’s become a general celebration of Mexican culture. What better fit for Festival las Americas, which celebrates the Americas? The club was founded in 2004 as a predominantly Spanish-speaking Rotary chapter.

Club Rotario’s Jen Elliott-Quevedo said the move will also help the festival capitalize on an already bustling First Friday crowd in Carbondale. This year’s festival also marks another milestone: free admission, thanks to a sponsorship by 1stBank. Organizers will still accept donations for scholarships.

The event typically raises $6,000-$7,000, which is distributed via $500 and $1,000 scholarships. Graduating high-school seniors and current CMC students are eligible to apply for the program, which is available to both Anglo and Latino students.

Grade point average isn’t the primary consideration for these scholarships. Club Rotario member Lucy Moncada Arcila said she takes notice of why applicants want to attend college, their community involvement and need.

The scholarship isn’t limited to tuition and books; food and other expenses may also qualify.

“We understand that many of [the students] can’t afford food at the cafeteria,” Arcila said.

This year’s scholarship finalists have completed the interview process. Meanwhile, Club Rotario turns its focus to this weekend’s event, which is essential to growing the more than $100,000 in scholarships awarded to date.

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