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Fiesta honors farmworkers

September 20, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Music, food and a soccer tournament combined Sunday for quite a fiesta at Chambersburg Memorial Park.

The Chambersburg Hispanic American Center and Lincoln Intermediate Unit (LIU) 12 joined to host their first festival for farmworkers in Franklin County. Organizers strived to include aspects of various countries and segments of the Latino culture.

Sergio Polanco produces the Ritmo Latino show broadcast on several Tri-State radio stations. He signed up musical acts that featured Dominican rhythms, Mexican music, Spanish-language gospel, urban Latin sounds and pop/rock.

"Our goal is to bring everybody here," Polanco said. "We're happy to see different faces and countries here."

"Our community is one," said Marilyn Ross, board chairwoman for the Chambersburg Hispanic American Center.

Chambersburg Mayor Pete Lagiovane made balloon animals for children and Franklin County Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski issued a proclamation on behalf of his board.

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Diana Martes, executive director of the Chambersburg Hispanic American Center, said guests were already asking if the festival will be held in 2010. She hopes to use approximately the same dates.

"We were supposed to do it at a later time, but the migrants leave at the end of September," Martes said.

Some of the migrant workers will go to New York state to harvest apples in orchards there, while others will head to Texas or Florida, according to Suzanne Benchoff, LIU 12 director.

The LIU provides English as a Second Language classes not only in schools, but for adults, Benchoff said.

Ross said she saw fewer migrant workers in the Chambersburg area when the economy soured. However, Ross and Benchoff noted an increased interest from consumers who want to buy local produce.

"That's just a win-win for everybody," Benchoff said.

The festival also featured informational booths set up by the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania State Police, Chambersburg Fire Department and Keystone Health Center farmworkers program. Martes said sponsors allowed the festival to be financially viable.

A priest from Corpus Christi Parish provided a blessing at the festival's start. Organizers handed out free fruits and vegetables, as well as applesauce donated by Knouse Foods.

Carmen Leon from LIU 12 handed out free food tickets for children in the crowd of several hundred.

"We hope next year we have more volunteers to put this together," she said.

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