Mulberry Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Festival
by James Coulter
When Maribel Garay learned that her hometown was hosting a Hispanic Heritage Festival, she considered it an opportune moment for her and her church to spread the good word. She and her congregation from Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal in Lakeland set up a booth to pass out bags of candy, hand sanitizer, and pamphlets with info about their church location and service times.
“We think everybody needs the LORD…so whoever wants to visit, they can come,” she said.
Maribel and her fellow church members enjoyed being able to participate that afternoon to celebrate their shared Hispanic heritage with everyone, regardless whether they spoke English or Spanish.
“It is great, a beautiful day, and we are participating with all Hispanic people…and with whoever wants to join us,” she said.“We are able to gather again with people. It was great because we all get together so it is hundred percent for me.”
Her church was one of many local organizations to attend the annual Mulberry Hispanic Heritage Festival. On Saturday afternoon, several dozen vendors set up booths in Spence Park to offer food, merchandise, and other activities to celebrate the community’s rich, diverse heritage.
Dani Higgins attended with her students from Mulberry High School. She has worked within the migrant education program in Polk County Schools for 17 years. She currently sponsors the high school Spanish club, Adelante.
During the festival last Saturday, she and her students shared arts and crafts about Hispanic culture, allowing attendees to fill in coloring sheets with Spanish phrases and cultural references. Dani and her club participate in many local community service projects throughout the year. While the festival appeared to havea lower turnout due to these uncertain times, overall, the people who did attend seemed to enjoy themselves, she said.
“I think it is very important to have events like these that are inclusive of different groups in our community, and I think it is important to celebrate all of the different cultures that are represented in our city,” she said.
Mulberry has hosted the Hispanic Heritage Festival to celebrate their local Hispanic community and their contributions to the Greater Mulberry Area. The annual event was hosted by the Greater Mulberry Chamber of Commerce, with assistance from new organizations such as the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Ritzmo DJ Services.
Especially after a year and a half long pandemic, the outdoor event offered a lively and safe venue through which local residents could spend quality time outside with friends, family, and neighbors.
“It is a great time for people to get together and celebrate,” she said. “It was nice to get outside and safely celebrate.”
The turnout for the festival overall met initial expectations, especially considering the current pandemic. To ensure public health and safety, attendees were highly recommended to wear masks and social distance. Overall, the good weather drew out plenty of people willing to enjoy a tranquil environmentoutdoors.
“It has been great,” Young said. “We see a lot of smiling happy faces. Lots of fellowships, peoples playing games, socializing, getting to spend time together, and celebrate what this is all about. The City of Mulberry recognizes that the Hispanic Community is a large and proud part of our culture and we want to do our part in celebrating the history and contributions of our celebration. So anything we can do to be a inclusive and diverse environment, we are all about it.”