GOSHEN — It was an evening of rhythm and color Friday at the Heritage Park Stage at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds. Groups of young men and women dressed in traditional attire danced, and after their performance, a band played Duranguense music as couples from the crowd got up and danced until nightfall.
The annual Latino Bands Night has become a family tradition for many on the second Friday of the fair.
Lupita Zepeda of Elkhart brought her son and grandchildren to the fair as she does each year. To Zepeda, it’s not just about keeping the tradition of going to the fair, but also teaching her grandchildren about their heritage.
Although she didn’t plan on staying very late, Zepeda made sure to bring her grandchildren to the traditional dance performances.
“We want to share with them something that is important to our identity,” she said.
Since the event was first planned in 2006, the Latino Bands Night has drawn thousands of visitors to the Park Stage.
“Based on the turnout I think they are happy with the event and I feel it’s been very successful,” said Monica Gould, coordinator of the Park Stage.
The idea of bringing an event to the fair that would cater to the Latino demographics in the area came from Herb Maust, a volunteer at the fair and Gould’s grandfather.
As she walked around Park Stage on Friday evening, Gould said she was pleased with this year’s turnout. She said the weather was also a contributing factor in the number of people on the park.
“This is the part I love,” she said as she looked at the growing crowd.
In the last few years, the Latino Bands Night has brought the largest crowd to the Park Stage, Gould said.
“It’s totally packed, and people dance, they talk, they hang around,” she said. “It really is a family event.”
Ignacio Zepeda couldn’t agree more. Zepeda, general manager of WKAM 1460 AM, said one of the most important parts of the event is that it is completely family-oriented.
“We’d like to see this continue to grow,” he said. “We’d like to see this become more of a multicultural event.”
WKAM, a local station that plays Latino music, helps organize Latino Bands Night, bringing the bands and the emcee.
The event includes three to five bands that play different kinds of genres and some performances of traditional dance.
Humberto Delgado, a member of the South Bend traditional dance group Tierra Viva, said this was the first time the group was invited to the fair.He was happy to see the large crowd that welcomed them.
“It’s good for the Latino community to have these events that make them feel a little closer to home,” he said. “And it’s not just about the Latino community, but about sharing our traditions and including everyone.”