'Southern hospitality meets Latin flair' at festival in Highland Park

'Southern hospitality meets Latin flair' at festival in Highland Park

April 29th, 2015 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Chattanooga State Community College on Saturday hosts the city's first Latin Festival, an event being billed as "Southern hospitality meets Latin flair."

The event is designed to welcome immigrants to the city, said Latin Festival 2015 coordinator Gladys Pineda-Loher, director of International Community Outreach Leadership and Fund Development at Chattanooga State.

The festival starts at Highland Park Commons at 9 a.m. Saturday. Activities end with a soccer game and a closing ceremony about 4 p.m.

If you go

* What: Latin Festival 2015
* When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
* Where: Highland Park Commons, 2000 Union Ave.

"It's going to be a great experience, a chance to enjoy Latin culture," said Suzanne Elston, Chattanooga State's director of adult education.

Festival highlights include a Latin-American fashion show, a parade of nations and a Latino-American soccer match.

Noticias Libres, a newspaper for the Hispanic community published by the Times Free Press, will provide a Spanish-language resource guide that lists services available to the immigrant community.

Two dozen Latin nations represented in Chattanooga will be spotlighted at the festival. People can learn about cultural differences in food, music and dance, event organizers say.

Mexican, Guatemalan, Brazilian, Peruvian, Dominican and Honduran musicians and dancers will perform on the main stage. Nearly two dozen Latin ministers will conduct worship services, and immigration attorneys will provide advice to residents.

Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey attended a recent planning meeting for the festival.

"Chattanooga is becoming an international city, and the Hispanics account for a huge part of that," he said.

Chattanooga's Hispanic population more than tripled between 2000 and 2010, U.S. Census figures show. And in 2014, WalletHub, a personal finance social network, ranked Chattanooga third among the 150 largest U.S. cities for growth in the Hispanic population. Of the 167,674 people in Chattanooga, 9,225 or 5.5 percent are Hispanic, according to the latest census population estimates.

Festival proceeds benefit Chattanooga State's Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language programs. Grant sponsors include the Benwood Foundation, the Maclellan Foundation, the Footprint Foundation and Causeway.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.