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Latino Festival practices their formation for the Iowa State Fair Parade

As outlined in an earlier post, the Latino Heritage Festival is a key reason it is awesome to be Latino in Des Moines, but it's not just for Latinos, the Festival has become the highest attended cultural festival in the state, drawing a crowd of over 30,000 Iowans every year. For the past three years they have been a part of the Iowa State Fair parade, promoting the festival.

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Volunteer flag bearers met at Gray's Lake Park to practice holding the flags while marching, the flag formation and how to stop and go without letting the flags (weighing at least 5 lbs each) touch the ground. The parade route is 2 miles long but given the slow nature of parades, and the stop and go that happens, the parade is expected to last close to two hours.

“I am so proud of the volunteers participating in the parade,” says Margarita Savala, board member of Latino Resources, Inc. the non-profit entity that coordinates Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival. “They are instrumental in building excitement for the Festival and showing a positive image of Latinos in Iowa. I think it will be especially moving this year as Iowans see flags of their homelands and where their ancestors might have come from.” The Festival’s parade entry has won awards in past years and they hope to do so again this year incorporating over 30 volunteers, local businesses, music and dancing along with the flags.

Here are some interesting facts to think about as entry #38 passes in front of you during the procession:

- The flags are in alphabetical order and include Spanish-speaking countries from Europe, North, Central and South America and the Caribbean,

- About half of the flags are carried by people from the country it represents,

- Most of the marchers carrying flags are Des Moines youth who are excited to showcase a positive images of young Latinos in the city,

- The dance troupe is dressed in full traditional costume and will dance to Mexican folkloric music the entire route,

- The music is being played from an iPod hooked up to speakers inside a Best Buy Geek Squad VW Bug,

- The convertible and Jeep are donated for the event by Dewey Ford and will carry the executive director of the non-profit that coordinates the annual event, as well as cold water for the dancers and flag-bearers,

- All 25+ volunteers were rounded up via Facebook and e-mail in a matter of two days when the original organization of volunteers bailed at the last minute.

- There will be no tossing of candy during the parade as that has been banned from this particular parade due to the crowds and potential danger of kids running after candy while floats and such are passing through.

- It will be led by Jesus and Mary- special volunteers indeed!

The parade is sure to drum up excitement about the Iowa State Fair taking place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds August 13-23, and the Latino Heritage Festival will take place September 19-20 at the Blank Park Zoo. The event includes a rich variety of traditional Latino food, authentic arts and crafts, and cultural exhibits featuring educational activities for all ages, plus hours of live entertainment on three stages, and the third annual Latino Vocal Talent Competition. The festival is only $1 for children 12 and under, $5 for everyone older than 12.

The parade route runs from the West side of the State Capitol on Grand Avenue to 15th Street. The parade starts at 6:15 p.m. Shawn Johnson, of the 2008 Summer Olympics gymnastics team silver medalist and Dancing With the Stars fame is the parade marshal.

For more information about Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival, visit the website at www.latinoheritagefestival.org. For more information about the Iowa State Fair and its kick-off parade, visit www.iowastatefair.org.

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