After being canceled two years in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Palomino Fest returns to Uvalde, Texas, with a performance from Latin Grammy and Grammy Award-winning group, Los Palominos.
The Uvalde natives will hit the stage in their hometown during Labor Day weekend to reach the community through music in the aftermath of the mass shooting on May 24 at Robb Elementary School. The event includes a carnival, petting zoo, rodeo and live musical guests including Piñata Protest, AJ Castillo, and Pesado.
"I hope that people come in from out of town and encourage the community to just come out, enjoy it, and have a good time, because they understand what we've been going through and it's been a horrible situation for our small community," James Arreola, vocalist and bajo sexto player for Los Palominos, told ABC News.
Los Palominos -- a Mexican American Tejano band of over 30 years with hits like "Corazón de Cristal," "La Llama," and "Mi Obsesión" -- say they created Palomino Fest in 1996 to celebrate their roots and give back to their hometown. This year marks Palomino Fest's 26th run, but Arreola said they're commemorating its 25th anniversary since they were unable to host the festival in 2021.
According to Arreola, Palomino Fest has come a long way since its humble beginnings in an abandoned lot.
"Our community didn't really have any kind of celebration, like a county fair or festival, so we decided to start up a music festival for our community to get together and just have a good time," Arreola said. "We started out playing on two flatbed trailers and inviting friends of ours to come and perform, and we started with nothing—actually spending more money to have the festival than we would make out of it."
While the festival wasn't initially profitable, Arreola said Palomino Fest eventually grew and became highly lucrative, and the band decided to collaborate with Uvalde's Southwest Texas Junior College to donate the funds for local scholarships. This year, the money will be donated to the families of survivors who sustained injuries during the mass shooting. The organizers will host a ceremony at Palomino Fest to present the funds to these families.
Ismael Martinez, a Uvalde Festival and Events Association board member and organizer for Palomino Fest, said they will also announce additional ways for the public to make further donations because the families are in dire need of support.
"The common issue is that especially for the families of the injured—they need financial assistance because they are having to deal with their kids' physical injuries and mental injuries, and at least one parent is not able to work because they have to tend to their children," Martinez said.
Martinez said this year's festival theme will be "Uvalde Strong" and they will be conducting a small tribute for the victims.
"It's going to be 21 seconds of silence to remember the ones lost on May 24, but we're not trying to make it gloom and doom because we're all about trying to get back to some normalcy," Martinez said.
Arreola said Los Palominos will also be honoring the victims by dedicating their song "Te Seguire" to the victims. The Tejano musician said "Te Seguire" is a love song about losing a partner and following them to the "other world."
"It's our small little tribute to these angels that are now in heaven," he said.
According to Arreola, his niece was at Robb Elementary School the day of the shooting, but his niece had left campus before the incident took place. Even so, the situation deeply impacted Arreola's niece.
"The stories that I hear from my sister-in-law, her daughter says, 'Mom, when am I going to get to go to my new school so I can check and see where I can hide if something happens?'" Arreola said.
As a former student himself from Robb Elementary School, Arreola said he feels the consequences of the tragedy and what it means for the town.
"I have fond memories of the school and I tell people this school is in the barrios, it's a community where it's all Hispanic people and I grew up two to three blocks away from that school, it's such a sad situation and I don't want this to define who we are," Arreola said.
Beyond performing, Arreola said he wants to help provide a sense of community for Uvalde as the town continues to heal and recover from the tragedy.
"In the end, we're just praying for everybody to figure out a way to move forward, I'm not really sure what the new normalcy will be, but I feel that regardless of what it is, something is coming somewhere in the future, we just don't know how far away and what it is," Arreola said.
Uvalde natives Los Palominos return to city with music festival originally appeared on abcnews.go.com