For the past decade, Hillsboro’s Latino Cultural Festival has brought area residents together to celebrate the diverse backgrounds of our citizens, to learn more about each other’s heritage and traditions and to foster understanding.

On Sunday, a crowd estimated at approximately 5,000 came together at the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza on Main Street in downtown Hillsboro, and the impressive turnout was a testament not only to the successful organization of the event, but also to the vibrancy of the Latino community in this part of Washington County.

Several aspects of the festival jumped out at us as especially gratifying. First, this was truly a family-oriented event. There were not only activities for the kids, but youngsters were actively involved in the program — playing soccer, dancing, marching in the short opening parade, playing music and just being there to have fun.

The composition of the crowd was noteworthy as well. Although the event was billed as the Latino Cultural Festival, those attending were certainly not solely Latinos, and indeed, that is what the festival is really all about: bringing people from different backgrounds and cultures together as one. In that regard, the festival was a big success again this year, as a wide and varied cross-section of the community’s population showed up to explore what the festival has to offer.

Third, this is not solely a Hillsboro event. Residents came from all over the area, as did the performers and artists. For example, Plata Garza, a skilled painter from Forest Grove, was at the artist’s tent showing off his talents for those interested in the arts, and the Ballet Mexico en la Piel dancers also hail from Forest Grove.

The entertainment was again top-notch, and in particular the Huitzilin Cultural Group, based just down the valley in Dayton. Members of this dancing troupe celebrate Aztec traditions with amazingly colorful costumes and pounding drums, and the energetic performances are spectacular, rich and dramatic. It’s truly an exhibition not to be missed.

The Greater Hillsboro Area Chamber of Commerce is the creator and primary organizer of the Latino Festival, and the chamber deserves a ton of gratitude for tackling all the planning that goes into this yearly community party.

While it would mean more work, we believe the festival would benefit from being a few hours longer, or perhaps it could even be stretched over two days, making it a Saturday-Sunday event rather than solely a Sunday event. The crowds — organizers believe it was the largest turnout ever — demonstrated why expansion needs to at least be considered. This would also allow the festival to add layers of variety to the roster of on-stage entertainment, and allow those who are performing more time to shine. With the event’s growing popularity, some level of growth appears to be in order.

One issue that needs some fine-tuning is the sound system. Even to those of us who grew up with rock and roll concerts, the volume seemed too loud, to the point where the clarity of the music and vocals of some of the stage acts was fuzzing out and getting distorted, diminishing the enjoyment of the performances. And the wall of sound made it difficult for some of the nearby booths to conduct business, as the high volume made it almost impossible to converse. Perhaps the booths could be moved farther away from the stage to address this, but in any case the sound levels were often too strong and sharp.

These minor tweaks aside, the festival continues to be a highlight of spring in Washington County that a growing number of people look forward to every year. Any event that seeks to bring people closer is to be applauded, and the annual Latino Cultural Festival puts the richness of our community on display in a wonderful way.

Contract Publishing

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