Festival Latino: A Fall tradition in Lexington

The Lexington Festival Latino, organized annually by Lexington Parks & Recreation and the Foundation for Latin American and Latino Culture and Arts, is a Fall staple that unites the communities of Lexington with food, music, and fun.

By Ashley Craig

Each September, the Festival Latino brings families and friends together in downtown Lexington for 3-days promoting Latino heritage and culture. The earliest documented festival celebrating Latino cultures in Lexington was held at Red Mile Racetrack in 2000 or 2001, as shown in the documentary film  Más Allá de la Frontera (Beyond the Border). Soon after, in September 2002, the Lex-Mex Fiesta took place in Phoenix Park and began the tradition of holding this event in downtown Lexington (Jordan). Since 2000 the festival has been held annually in Courthouse Plaza, occasionally overflowing to the 5/3 Pavilion on Cheapside (“Latino Festiva in Lexington”). Holding the event downtown is significant because it represents the visibility the festival gives the Lexington Latino community. Despite the growth of the Festival Latino, it has remained at central to downtown Lexington without failing to accommodate the growing crowds from year to year. Maintaining a central location allows the entire Lexington community to participate in the intercultural experience as well as emphasize the importance of the visibility of the Latino community.

The sources that tell the story of this important event are as diverse as the event itself. We see documentation of the event from its very beginning through an assortment of media types: news articles, photos, videos, and social media content provide us with a textual and visual representation of the many people who have participated over the years. From social media pages dedicated to promoting the event to images on Flickr that documented the night from the perspective of attendees, there is widespread coverage of the event that is only growing. News reports on local news outlets through magazines and newspapers demonstrate the growing visibility of the Latino community (Ogawa). Other sources such as the photography on Flickr and videos on YouTube document the heart of the festival – the people – and provides an outlet for local Latino photographers to interpret and document culture through their own lens. Annual event posters show us the diversity of Central Kentucky’s Latino population by including flags and cultural symbols from around Latin America, while also attracting non-Latino individuals, emphasizing community and inclusion (Festival Latino de Lexington; Lexington, Latino Festival). Other video sources on YouTube and Facebook provide further visibility by recording the sights, sounds, and actions that one might experience at the event (“Festival Latino de Lexington Playlist”). As a group, these sources document the vital role that the Festival Latino de Lexington plays in bringing visibility to the local Latino community.

Over the years, the core value of the festival – to share and represent the Latino cultures that make up Lexington – has remained the same. The festival itself ensures representation of the many countries in Latin America through booths that share cultural information and sell products typical of each country and by holding a parade of nations on the first night of the festival. Local restaurants, vendors, and community programs come together to provide a night filled with dancing, food, and fun for all ages. Performers gather on the stage to demonstrate traditional music, dances, and clothing from a variety of cultures. Many performers blend modern music and dancing into their performances as well. The Festival Latino has also brought attention and support to small Latino businesses in Lexington; local vendors set up food trucks and storefronts to share authentic Latino food and items. Food trucks have a variety of options from tacos to pupusas to churros to empanadas and more. Vendors share crafts, traditional clothing, and handmade pottery. The Festival Latino de Lexington is a necessary and important event that celebrates the culture and daily life of the many Latinos that make up the diverse population of Lexington. This tradition gives the Lexington Latino community the visibility and support for the continued growth that it deserves.

BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED SOURCES:

  • Beyond the Border. Directed by Erin McGinnis and Ari Palos, Kentucky ETV and LPB, 2002.
  • Bria Isaacson (2016). “Asbury Brings Lexington Latino Festival to Campus.” The Asbury Collegian, 23 Sept. 2016, http://www.theasburycollegian.com/2016/09/asbury-brings-lexington-latino-festival-to-campus/.
  • Davis, Merlene. “Don’t Look Now But Our Diversity is Showing.” Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), Final ed., sec. KyLife, 25 Aug. 2002, p. J1. NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/0F5ACB48599179FB. Accessed 14 Oct. 2021
  • Festival Latino de Lexington posters from 2014-2022. Festival Latino de Lexington. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/festivallatinolexington/. Accessed 21 Sept. 2022.
  • “Festival Latino De Lexington Playlist.” YouTube, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLa79Y9dTrTr6B0h6LXqTBDD4nOHO2n5zR.
  • “Flickr Search – ‘Festival Latino Lexington.’” Flickr, Yahoo!, 4 Nov. 2022, https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=festival+latino+lexington.
  • Herald-Leader Staff. “Fall Fun, Festivals Aplenty.” Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), Final ed., sec. Weekender, 17 Sept. 1999, p. 3. NewsBank: Access World News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/0EB74263560221EB. Accessed 21 Apr. 2022.
  • Jordan, Jim. “Lex-Mex Fiesta Dances as Dry as Spell Breaks.” Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), Final ed., sec. City&Region, 15 Sept. 2002, p. B3. NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/0F61B6E5AA3596A1. Accessed 14 Oct. 2021.
  • “Latino Festival in Lexington.” Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, https://archive.kftc.org/events/latino-festival-lexington.
  • Lexington, Festival Latino. “Festival Latino 2011.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 2 Sept. 2011, https://www.flickr.com/photos/67007089@N07/6105595073/.
  • Mannering, Megan (2022). “Hispanic Heritage Month Showcases Success of Latin-Owned Business.” LEX 18 News – Lexington, KY (WLEX), LEX 18 News – Lexington, KY (WLEX), 30 Sept. 2022, https://www.lex18.com/community/hispanic-heritage-month-showcases-success-of-latin-owned-business.
  • Massengill, Dustin. “Festivals Returning to Downtown Lexington Starting Saturday.” FOX 56 News, FOX 56 News, 29 Apr. 2022, https://fox56news.com/news/local/festivals-returning-to-downtown-lexington-starting-saturday/.
  • Ogawa, Jillian. “Cultural Explosion – Festival Latino Grows from a Humble Start.” Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), Final ed., sec. City&Region, 16 Sept. 2006, p. B3. NewsBank: Access World News. Accessed 11 Jan. 2022.
  • Walker, Justin. “Health Fair Provides Information for Lexington’s Hispanic Community.” ABC 36 News, 2 Oct. 2022, https://www.wtvq.com/health-fair-provides-information-for-lexingtons-hispanic-community/.
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