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Annual Latino festival offers food, resources

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The Chamber of Hispanic Affairs in Gainesville is hosting the 11th annual Downtown Latino Festival Saturday.

The festival, which is free to the public, will begin at noon in the Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville.

David Ruiz, the director for the festival, said there are many purposes for the family-friendly event, but its main purpose is to bring the Latino community together to celebrate its heritage.

“The other major component of the festival is to get people connected to local resources,” Ruiz said. “Like a non-profit, a government agency, job opportunities and also get educated on HIV/AIDS and other health related issues that affect the Hispanic/Latino community.”

The festival was originally intended to be a simple fundraiser, but it’s become a staple in the community, Ruiz said.

“People look forward to it every year, and it grows every year with the amount of people that attend it and the different people that participate in it every year,” he said.

The feedback Ruiz has gotten from the Gainesville community has been positive, he said. He’s heard only one complaint.

“We just always get people saying we need to extend it longer into the evening because people at 5 o’clock when we say, ‘Hey, it’s over,’ they’re still wanting to sit there and buy food from the different food vendors or listen to music and things like that,” he said. “We kind of heard that this year and decided to extend it until 9 p.m.”

Ruiz says his main goal is to increase event attendance every year, and he already has a few changes in mind for next year’s festival.

“I’m looking to get more people involved when it comes to artistry, people that paint and our Latin American artists or something along those lines,” he said. “But every year we just try to outreach to more and more non-profits and government agencies and food vendors and vendors that are selling other things.”

Hana Engroff edited this story online.

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