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Thousands turn out for annual Latino Festival

Dozens of kids participated in the all-day Futsal tournament, held in parking lots surrounding the Civic Center. Street soccer has been a highly popular activity during the annual festival.Sunday’s Latino Cultural Festival in downtown Hillsboro drew an estimated 5,000 people — not bad at all for a 10-year birthday party.

Representatives of the Greater Hillsboro Area Chamber of Commerce, the primary organizer of the yearly celebration, said this year’s festival appeared to have the biggest turnout ever.

“We just really lucked out to have a spectacular day,” said Deanna Palm, president of the chamber. “This was one of the fullest participations we’ve had, and what a great way to celebrate 10 years.”

Palm said she appreciated not only the size of the crowd, but the diversity of those who attended.

“People were really wanting to celebrate our diversity,” Palm said.

Although held in Hillsboro, the festival attracts people from all around the area, including Forest Grove.{img:37379}

Plata Garza, a Forest Grove artist, was among those whose work was featured in the artists’ tent across from the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza. Garza said this year’s event was the second time his artwork had been featured at the festival, and he values the exposure.

“I was here five years ago as well,” said Garza, who was working on a colorful abstract painting.

Organizers said the primary objective of the festival is to build bridges between the area’s different communities.

Members of the Huitzilin Cultural Group dressed in beautiful and colorful costumes to celebrate the Aztec culture.“The goal is to reach more of the Latino community,” said Mary Loftin of the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department, who helped staff an informational booth at the event.

Loftin said the city is hoping to encourage more Latinos to take advantage of the services being offered.

“We need a concerted effort to reach this community within the greater Hillsboro community, and we’re trying to reach out more,” she said. “There are programs Latinos don’t typically tap into, and we are letting them know we have a lot to offer.”

Noel Maldonado, who was born in Mexico, said he has fond memories of the festival from when he was younger.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Forest Grove's Plata Garza painted an abstract under the artists' tent Sunday at the Latino Cultural Festival in Hillsboro. “I remember coming here with my family when I was a kid,” he said. “I was raised in Hillsboro, and growing up here, you lose touch with some of your roots.”

Maldonado, who now works as a BLAST program (Bringing Leadership, Arts and Sports Together) site supervisor at Eastwood Elementary School, said he appreciates the breadth of the focus on Latin traditions.

Members of the Huitzilin Cultural Group dressed in beautiful and colorful costumes to celebrate the Aztec culture.“It’s not only Mexican, but other Latin influences in the community — El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala — there is a focus on all different aspects of it. It’s great,” Maldonado said.

Jill Hult of the chamber of commerce said there seemed to be a true sense of celebration and joy in the air.

Members of the Huitzilin Cultural Group dressed in beautiful and colorful costumes to celebrate the Aztec culture.“The only complaint I heard from anybody was the food lines are too long,” Hult said.

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