The city's inaugural Viva Salem festival to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month debuts Saturday at Riverfront Park.
The free, family-friendly event will feature live music, performances, food vendors, crafts and activities.
Irma Coleman, Salem's neighborhood program coordinator, said the festival1 titled ¡Viva Salem! Todos Unidos, meaning "all united," is intended to bring the entire community together to celebrate an important part of its culture.
Salem's population is about 22% Hispanic, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
City officials said it is their goal to amplify the contributions of the Hispanic community and celebrate the diversity that is one of Salem's important building blocks.
Coleman said the idea was born out of talking with neighbors and businesses.
"I've heard from many of our residents that they wished Salem hosted a Hispanic Heritage Festival like all these other cities like Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro and Woodburn," she said. "I've been hearing this from our neighbors for a very long time."
When she met with recently hired City Manager Keith Stahley last year, he encouraged her to go forward with the idea.
As the festival neared, interest grew. The popularity of a Spanish-language resource fair held earlier this year further indicated a high interest from the Hispanic community to engage with the city and have culturally-informed events.
"Neighbors, residents, everyone is very excited and supportive," Coleman said.
Saturday's festival will run from noon to 6 p.m. and include a resource fair, free, family-friendly crafts where people can make a tree of life or alebrijes — folk art figurines of fantastical creatures — along with live music, food vendors, dance performances, bouncy houses and face painting.
Performances will include:
Noche Cultural, Antonio Huerta from 12:20-1 p.m.
Casa de la Cultura Tlanese from 1:10-1:40 p.m.
Barrio Mestizo PDX from 2-3 p.m.
Sin Documentos from 3:10-4 p.m.
Grupo Mparable 4:10-4:45 p.m.
A Cara O Cruz Band from 5-6 p.m.
Mayor Chris Hoy and Councilor Jose Gonzalez will kick off the event with a welcome and proclamation in English and Spanish. City services like the public library and park rangers will have booths as will other communities services like the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency and CASA of Marion County.
"Overall, we just want to share with and celebrate the rich culture that we have here in Salem, the second biggest city in Oregon and with about 22% (of people having their) the first language be Spanish," Coleman said. "We really just want to embrace and celebrate that and connect people with local services that they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn about."
More information is available at cityofsalem.net/vivasalem
This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Viva Salem festival celebrating Hispanic culture set to debut