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OCCHA Latino festival offers a full menu of food, entertainment

July 24,2016 18:30

Organizacion Civica Y Cultural Hispana Americana's fifth International Latino Food Festival had a little bit of everything – food and desserts and dancing and music – to satisfy the palates and ears of anyone with an interest in Hispanic/Latino ...and more »

Published: Sun, July 24, 2016 @ 12:09 a.m.By William K. Alcornalcorn@vindy.comYOUNGSTOWNOrganizacion Civica Y Cultural Hispana Americana’s fifth International Latino Food Festival had a little bit of everything – food and desserts and dancing and music – to satisfy the palates and ears of anyone with an interest in Hispanic/Latino cultures, including those from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Spain, the Dominican Republican and Cuba.The one-day food festival ran from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at OCCHA’s facility on Shirley Road.People started lining up at 11:30 a.m., said Mary Lou Reyes, OCCHA executive, who said the primary purpose of the food festival is to enable the community at-large to experience and taste Hispanic/Latino cuisine, handmade by local residents, and music and dancing provided by local entertainers.The most-popular meals are the roast pork and grilled chicken, pernil asado and pollo asado, respectively, served with rice and beans and other sides.“Everything else is a la carte,” said Reyes, whose parents came to Youngstown from Puerto Rico in the 1940s so her father could work in the steel mills. She attended South High School and graduated from The Rayen School in 1974.Local entertainers who performed between 12:30 and 6 p.m., followed by DJ music and open-floor dancing, included the Peruvian Labra Brothers Band, and members of Ursuline High School’s Spanish Club performing dances and music from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Puerto Rico.Children’s activities were offered from noon to 7 p.m., including a pinata, led by Hector Colon, chairman of the festival committee.“This is a great activity which provides a taste and flavor of the different foods and culture of the Hispanic/Latino community,” said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, a member of the OCCHA Board of Trustees. Ray said his mother is Mexican and Italian, and his grandparents came to the United States from Mexico in 1918.Marisol Rodemoyer, a Peruvian, said she and her husband, Jesse, came to the festival for the food and music and to enjoy the culture.She came here in 1976 from Peru with her parents, Arnold and Herminia Lees, graduated from The Rayen School in 1985 and received an associate degree in general studies from Youngstown State University.Events such as the International Food Festival are important because they help people get to know the Hispanic/Latino community and because they raise money for children’s programs offered by OCCHA, said Angelie Nieves of Youngstown, who is Puerto Rican and volunteered at the festival’s beverage counter.OCCHA was founded in 1972 as a nonprofit organization with the principal goal of identifying problem areas in the Spanish-speaking community. It establish programs, such as English as a Second Language, to address the problems, said Reyes.Proceeds from Saturday’s event benefit children’s program, such as Summer Day Camp and the After School Program.Reyes thanked all of the volunteers who prepared and served the handmade food and beverages. “Without them, this festival would not be possible,” she said.

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