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Hillsboro Chamber's annual block party promises futsal tournament, performances and more

COURTESY PHOTO: HILLSBORO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - The Latino Cultural Festival is presented by Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, and showcases local artists every year. For 15 years, Hillsboro's Latino Cultural Festival has been going strong. The festival returns this Sunday, and organizers say this year's celebration promises big surprises, old favorites and fun opportunities for people of all ages.

From noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, May 19, downtown Hillsboro will be filled with festivities, food and local vendors, all free to the public. Beginning at noon, Azteca dancers will kick off the celebration with a parade at the Hillsboro Civic Center, 150 E. Main St., followed by different schools in the Hillsboro School District holding Latin American county banners.

Deanna Palm, president of the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, said the festival has grown and grown since it first launched in 2004.

"Events have life cycles, but I look at this event and there are no signs of stopping," Palm said.

The event was the brainchild of M&M Marketplace owner Jaime Miranda and former Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce member John Michael, who wanted a way to connect Hillsboro's growing Latino community with local businesses and resources, Palm said.

Nansi Lopez, who oversees Latino outreach at the Chamber, said the event is meant to be more inclusive to Hillsboro's Latino community as it continues to grow.

"Hillsboro has a predominately Mexican Latinx community," Lopez said, using the gender-neutral term for area Latinos. "We wanted to be even more inclusive to the Latinx community (as a whole). It was really key for us to cultivate what they wanted to see out of this. We have great communication about what they wanted to see this year and I think we all wanted to see more variety from the Latinx community."

Among the offerings:

• Arts and crafts will be featured at the event's Art Village, the 12th annual futsal tournament from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. behind the Civic Center, as well as a passport challenge for the first 50 people who visit all of the sponsors.

•Performers on the main stage include Hillsboro School District Mariachi Una Voz, Centro Cultural's Ballet Folklorico & Academia Gabriela, HSD Baile Latino de Mooberry, Marinera Nortena, Canva Azul, Son de Cuba and Edna Vazquez.

• The Portland Trail Blazers' street team will host a basketball clinic and players from both the Hillsboro Hops and Portland Timbers will be in attendance, organizers said.

The presence of professional sport teams "shows the significance of Hillsboro, that we are seen as important market and so they take the time to show up and spend time with us," Palm said. "Latino Cultural Festival is very special for us as an organization and as a community. The community has embraced this event for so many years."

Palm attends every year, and said the festival is worthwhile and important to Hillsboro.

"When I see the Civic Center filled, it looks and reflects our community in the most striking fashion," Palm said. "One thing we are doing now that is really cool is the elementary school parade representing Latin American countries. That is where you see a dramatic change, because the students circle around the Civic Center, go inside, and we announce the names of the schools and you see that there is such an embracing of diversity and cultural awareness at the elementary school level. It tells me that this is the kind of community we want."

This year's forecast calls for possible rain, but that hasn't stopped a large number of residents coming out in past years, Palm said.

"It is such a unique celebration of the Latinx community," Palm said. "I would say there is such a heightened awareness for the want and need for cultural awareness and learning about and celebrating diverse cultures. And this is a great way to do that, showing up and participating."

Watching the city evolve over the past 15 years has been dramatic, Palm said. After growing up in nearby Banks, she moved to Hillsboro and watched the community grow along with the economy, she said.

"We understand we are a business organization where there is a healthy community, and there is a nice symbiotic relationship with business, nonprofits and government," Palm said. "We do that really well."

For more information on the festivities, visit hillsborochamberor.com/latino-cultural-festival.

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