Festival Las Americas returns to Sopris Park | PostIndependent.com

Festival Las Americas returns to Sopris Park

Festival Las Americas takes place on Sunday in Sopris Park in Carbondale.
Klaus Kocher |

If You Go...

Who: Roaring Fork Rotary

What: Festival Las Americas

When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Sopris Park in Carbondale

How Much: $7 for anyone 13 and older; kids are free

Food, crafts, music, dance and fun for the kids are all in store for the 13th annual Festival Las Americas, put on by the Roaring Fork Rotary.

But the festival isn’t just a party — it’s a party with a cause.

All of the money raised at the festival will go toward the Roaring Fork Rotary’s Colorado Mountain College (CMC) scholarship fund. Michael Carter, former club president and current member, said they give away about $15,000 in scholarships each year. Last year, they gave $18,000. And the Festival Las Americas plays a major role in allowing them to give so much. Carter said the event usually raises $8,000 to $10,000.

Even beyond the scholarships, which generally go to first-generation college students or young people who are otherwise facing adversity, the Festival Las Americas comes back year after year to celebrate the growing Latino community in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It’s for people to come down and socialize,” Carter said. “It’s primarily attended by Latinos, but it’s really to celebrate all of the Americas.”

According to the 2010 census, almost 30 percent of Garfield County is Latino. However, Carter said, the Latino community is still underrepresented in leadership positions, like boards for nonprofits and police and fire departments, for example. Carter hopes this changes in the future.

“We’re focusing on the youth and helping empower them into that level of the community,” he said. “The festival gives the Latino community a chance to celebrate their heritage and where they come from, but it also gives them a chance to look into nonprofits and chances for higher education. No way do we look at it as political; it’s humanitarian.”

The festival this year will feature music from three bands — two Mexican acts and one American folk rock group. A Colombian dance troupe from Denver will perform and teach salsa lessons to attendees, and kids will enjoy pinatas, a bouncy house and more.

“The festival is here so people can really appreciate where they live and appreciate the people they live around,” Carter said.

The Festival Las Americas began with community member Jackie Morales, who ran one of the first Latino outreach programs in the valley. When Morales died from breast cancer, the Roaring Fork Rotary took over what was once called Latino Fest and started Festival Las Americas. Morales is honored every year through awards given to people in the Latino community who are unifying the valley in some way.

The spirit of the festival is one of celebration and inclusivity, Carter said.

“We want people to feel they own this, they’re part of the community,” he said. “We want leaders to come out of this group.”

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