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The flavor of diversity

Festival-goers savor a blend of cultures

Festival-goers savor a blend of cultures

May 07, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Puerto Rican-born Sky Martinez left Chambersburg to join the U.S. Army when she turned 18, but over the past five years has returned to visit family members who still live here.

On Saturday, Martinez's visit was a little different, but in a good way: She went with her family to the Cinco de Mayo and Ethnic Food Fest on the square in Chambersburg, a gathering of cultures she said was encouraging to see.

"For Chambersburg, this is like totally new. It shows that people have more understanding about the Hispanic community," said Martinez, 23, who has been stationed in San Antonio, and is leaving for Iraq in June.

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As Martinez spoke, those gathered on the corners of the town's historic square watched a smiling woman wearing carnations in her hair dance to a Mexican folk song, which moved her to gently swing the ends of her lace-trimmed white dress and shuffle her black boots.

The Ballet Tapatio dancers performed for the commemoration of Cinco de Mayo, the May 5, 1862, victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla.

Vendors selling Mexican, Cajun, Greek, Thai, "Soul" and Southwestern foods fed about 1,000 people who came out over the course of the day, said Rosalie Lidard, coordinator of the Downtown Business Council in Chambersburg, which, along with Leadership Franklin County, organized the celebration.

"We wanted to get people to come downtown and mix the cultures of Chambersburg," said Megan Bell, 18, a Leadership Franklin County student and Chambersburg Area Senior High School senior.

Lidard said the groups also wanted to recognize the city's growing Hispanic population.

Dreama Lopez, 35, said she has lived in Chambersburg for 10 years. A mother of four children who were raised bilingually, Lopez said she liked seeing members of the Hispanic community get a chance express themselves.

Her daughter, Adrianna Jimenez, 15, said of the festival, "It's different. It's nice though."

Lidard said that it has been more than 12 years since the city held an ethnic food festival, but said she hopes to make an annual tradition of the Cinco de Mayo and Ethnic Food Fest, which this year largely was sponsored by The Butcher Shoppe in Chambersburg.

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