Spirit Packs Hispanic Festival
By ELIZABETH GANGA
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original Publication: July 22, 2012)
VALHALLA– Jackie and Marcus Renna of North White Plains have been coming to the Hispanic Heritage Festival at Kensico Dam Plaza for perhaps 20 years, but the celebration and the music keep bringing them back.
As he waited for his wife to finish at one of the many booths spread out in front of the dam Sunday afternoon, Marcus Renna stood with his sons and enjoyed the singers on the main stage.
“It’s just a beautiful celebration of culture, a beautiful day,” said Renna. Both he and his wife are Puerto Rican and both are teachers.
“Since they started it, we’ve been here,” Jackie Renna said.
The festival, which benefited from a sunny but not scorching day, was expected to bring out as many as 15,000 people. It was organized by an alliance of five groups that serve the Latino community – El Centro Hispano, the Hispanic Resource Center, Neighbors Link, United Community Center and the Westchester Hispanic Coalition – and is one of a long series of ethnic festivals that have come to the plaza each year.
Westchester’s Hispanic community has grown dramatically in the last few decades and is increasingly diverse. The 2010 census found 22 percent of the county’s population is Hispanic, more than 207,000 people. The largest groups are Mexican and Puerto Rican but there are also large numbers of Dominicans, Guatemalans, Colombians, Ecuadorians and Peruvians.
Surrounding the stage, where dozens of people sat watching on folding chairs, were booths providing information on everything from insurance to the county’s parks and vendors selling everything from hot sauce to dance lessons to purses and dresses.
Children ran around with freshly painted faces and rode bikes on the paths around the plaza.
Families unpacked picnics or bought tacos and lemonade from the food trucks lined up to the side of the plaza.
Natalee Shale and Anthony Acoella of White Plains happened upon the festival as they rode their bikes and stopped to check it out.
The food, they said, was tempting them.
“It looks fun,” Shale said of the festival. “Brings people together.”
Maria Huanca, who came to the United States from Peru 13 years ago, said she was enjoying everything about the festival.
The booths, she said, gave her a chance both to buy something and learn something. But more than that the festival celebrates the many communities under the Hispanic umbrella.
“Here they celebrate the different communities,” Huanca said.
Bikkal & Associates Participates in the Festival
On Sunday, July 22, 2012, thousands flocked to Valhalla, NY for Westchester County’s annual Hispanic Heritage Day Festival. Bikkal & Associates took part in the celebrations.