Hispanic Festival raises funds for scholarships

September 20, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- Marinated meats cooked over a grill and the aroma of Mexican entrees attracted a line of people to one of the food vendors Sunday at the third annual Hagerstown Hispanic Festival at Fairgrounds Park.

George Perez walked away from a serving line with a plate full of delights, including pupusas, a dish similar to quesadillas.

The ones on Perez's plate were smothered with cheese and beans.

"It's good," Perez said as he plunged a fork into the meal.

Over at a booth lined up with others in a large field, festivalgoers could learn about a Chamber of Commerce just for Hispanic business owners.

The organization acts as an advocate for its members, and helps them with educational, marking and financial opportunities, members of the group said.


The Hispanic population in the area continues to grow and so has the festival, which was expected to raise about $3,000 Sunday for college scholarships for Hispanic students, organizers said.

Last year, the festival raised $1,000 for scholarships, said Diana Reyes, a festival organizer.

Reyes said the festival started when she and several friends went to a Hispanic festival in Frederick, Md.

"We said to ourselves, 'Why doesn't Hagerstown have one like that?'"

"It's been growing ever since," Reyes said of the local event.

Reyes said the free event gives local Hispanic people a chance to celebrate their culture.

Festival organizers search for sponsors each year to pay for the event and the scholarships. About six sponsors paid for Sunday's festival, Reyes said. Festival organizers pay for the cost of the festival, then use the remaining money for the scholarships, Reyes said.

Reyes said it was hard to estimate how many people were there Sunday, but streams of people flowed past food vendors and other attractions, including a jewelry booth and sports competitions.

On two soccer fields, adult and youth players competed in tournaments.

The Washington County Special Response team parked its armored personnel carrier at the site and children were allowed to climb through it.

Cesar Rivera said he had not heard about the festival until this year and decided to attend Sunday. He said he and his wife, Nelida, operate a cleaning business in Hagerstown and they came out in hopes of possibly getting a new business lead.

"With the economy, you need every opportunity you can get," Rivera said.

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