A festival for everyone

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Annual Club Rotario event has raised more than $48,000 for students

This article was printed in the Glenwood Post Independent. By Will Grandbois.

Photo of young boy riding a mechanical bull at Festival las AmericasThe 13th annual Festival Las Americas in Carbondale brought out the valley’s Latino community on Sunday, and others joined in the celebration as well.

“It’s a chance for the community to come together,” explained organizer Tony Mendez. ”This valley has people from all over the world, and we want to celebrate that.”

The event is sponsored by Rotary of the Roaring Fork Valley, better known as Club Rotario, which also pitches in for La Nueva Mix’s Cinco De Mayo and El Grito celebrations. A $7 admission fee benefits the club’s scholarship program, which in the past three years has handed out more than $48,000 to high school seniors and Colorado Mountain College students from Basalt to Rifle.

Things started out slowly in the afternoon with a smattering of food vendors, informational booths from local nonprofits and a variety of live music and dance in Sopris Park.

“We like to showcase a different style of music than we usually hear,” explained Mendez.

Between acts the crowd gathered for the chicken drop, a raffle variant where droppings determine the winner.

For the kids, there were bouncy houses, piñatas, and a dunk tank complete with a photo of Donald Trump on the target.

New this year was Danny Martinez’s mechanical bull, which drew all ages.

“The kids are having a lot of fun,” said Martinez.

As for the adults, the former bull rider can tell the pros and the amateurs as soon as they mount up, but even the best can’t stay on forever.

“You get tired,” he said. “The bull doesn’t get tired.”

In the early evening, Club Rotario presents the Jackie Morales awards, named in honor of the Peruvian immigrant who founded the festival and left a long legacy in the valley.

“She planted a lot of seeds that grew into the projects and nonprofit efforts that are bearing fruit today,” observed Rotarian Jim Coombs.

The professional award went to Barbara Johnson, who helped spearhead CMC’s primary education degree. Anibal Guevara, a volunteer from Ecuador, was recognized for his longtime role doing the electrical work for the festival. Glenwood Springs High School English teacher Lisa Hartert took the educator award for her extra effort with ELL students, and Roaring Fork High School Student Mario Alverde was recognized for his broad volunteer efforts.

As the sun dipped toward the horizon, the park began to fill and food vendors — mostly Mexican with a smattering of Central American food — worked overtime.

Like many attendees, Jazmin Soto makes a point to come to the event every year.

“It makes you feel like you’re at home,” she said.