First Friday celebration draws Carbondale together |

First Friday celebration draws Carbondale together

Carla Jean Whitley

People spilled from businesses into the streets of Carbondale on Friday night. Children played bean bag toss and other games in the Fourth Street Plaza. Colorado Animal Rescue brought out animals, and a silent auction raised money for CARE, valley recreation and the Carbondale Creative District. Art patrons gathered at exhibit openings, and groups of people wandered through the downtown area.

But the year’s first warm-weather First Friday was about more than entertainment. It was also a celebration of humanity.

Festival las Americas, Club Rotario’s annual scholarship fundraiser, moved to May in part to coincide with Cinco de Mayo. The day marks Mexican victory in the 1862 Battle of Puebla.

Club Rotario treasurer Klaus Kocher said the crowd was noticeably larger than in years past. But he was more excited about something else:

“The whole point of this thing is inclusiveness,” he said. He was pleased to see the event accomplish that by bringing Anglo and Hispanic cultures together.

“We all live here, but usually you see a lot of us and them. But it’s we,” he said.

Marisa and Daniel Zapata have lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for nine years. As they paused a game of cornhole Friday, they remarked on the diversity of the festival crowd as compared to Arizona, where they’re from.

“There isn’t a lot of mingling between cultures (there),” Marisa said.

“It’s a lot of people, different countries,” Daniel said.

Kocher noted the event’s security guards all happened to be of Mexican descent. That could be a benefit, he said, because people whose immigration status has been questioned are sometimes uncomfortable around law enforcement.

Erick Gutierrez, president of Minturn-based Ace Security, said his company works many Carbondale events. He said the officer demographic makeup was partly because 90 percent of his workforce hails from Mexico, he said. But during an event like the festival, there are advantages to that demographic makeup.

“It makes people more comfortable when they see Hispanic people working at these events, especially because of some things that have happened in the past,” he said. “People are less afraid of approaching us.”

And though he was on the job, Gutierrez said he and his staff are able to appreciate the event.

“We enjoy the music, we enjoy the atmosphere. We take it all in.”

The next Carbondale First Friday is June 2. The town’s Art Around Town art walk will introduce new public art installations on June 1.

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