Organizers were pleased with the response to the Hispanic-oriented activities at the Nebraska State Fair on Sunday, Sept. 1, which was the first such event since the State Fair’s initial appearance in Grand Island in 2010.
“It was very successful. I got a lot of feedback at the end of the night,” said Rosa Alvarado, a member of the State Fair Latino Advisory Committee.
As with any first-time event, there were a few glitches. “But you know what? We got through it. And it turned out really good.”
All of the activities took place at the Pump and Pantry Party Pit. The party was still going at midnight when things had to shut down in accordance with fair rules. Attendance grew after the Little Big Town concert concluded that night at the Heartland Events Center.
The most successful event was an appearance by a Selena tribute band from Yuma, Ariz. The seven-piece band performed at 6:30 p.m.
That concert had both cross-generational and cross-cultural appeal, said Yolanda Nuncio, another member of the Latino Advisory Committee. Members of four generations are fans of the singer, who died in 1995. Her music is also enjoyed by both Mexican-Americans and Americans, Nuncio said.
The organizers look upon the day as the kickoff for Hispanic Heritage Month, which is September. A proclamation was signed by Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele.
Nuncio and Alvarado give credit to State Fair Executive Director Lori Cox. Last fall, Nuncio went to see Cox about an increase in Latino activities.
“And she was very receptive. She assigned her staff to work with us on this,” Nuncio said.
One of the groups performing was a mariachi group from Lincoln High School, called Los Mariachis de la Ciudad Estrella.
The lineup included the Omaha-based Mexican Dance Academy of Nebraska and Sangre Azteca, a dance group from Lincoln.
Performing late in the morning was comedian Andres Gamboa, a Grand Island native who now lives in Lincoln.
Spectators enjoyed Raices de mi tierra, a dance group from Hastings.
The schedule began with Zumba dance music at 10 a.m., followed by Ballet Folklorico dance at 10:45 a.m.
The Grupo La Mira Band of Hastings performed shortly after noon.
A Battle of the DJ’s followed the Selena tribute group, featuring DJ’s from Grand Island and Columbus. It was organized by Pablo Arrendondo.
More than 20 people took part in the group’s entry in the State Fair Parade. Participants waved flags from Latin American countries. Driving in the parade was a low rider, provided by Roberto Garcia. Alvarado coordinated the parade entry.
Three scholarships were awarded.
“It was a day of celebration,” Nuncio said.
Alvarado and Nuncio would like to see the Latino activities become an annual part of the fair.
“The Latino population has definitely grown in the last 10 years,” Alvarado said. The number of professionals in the Latino community has also grown. “We have a lot of Latinos that are rising up and getting involved in the community, taking on challenges, putting on events.”
It was a good opportunity for a cultural exchange, Nuncio said. “We’ve got a large community in town that is Latino. But we also have a large community in town that we want to share our culture with and wants to learn more about other cultures.”
The lineup attracted people from other cities in the state, including Omaha, Lexington, Schuyler and Madison.
The organizers want to inspire other cultural groups to celebrate themselves. “We hope to inspire more diversity within the Nebraska State Fair,” Alvarado said.
Organizers appreciate Cox “and her commitment to our community,” Nuncio said.
They’re happy they were able to provide the Latino day and the community’s response to it. “And we’re looking forward to doing it again next year, and building on it,” Nuncio said.