Preparations are already underway for Haverstraw’s 11th annual United Latin Festival, which takes place on August 6th this year. The celebration was limited the past three years due to the pandemic, but will be a full-return to form this year, according to United Latin Festival President Jacquelin Contreras.
“What I’m looking forward to this year is the culture,” Contreras said. “We want to get more cultures involved. We want our kids to learn the different kinds of culture.”
Most importantly, she confirmed that the much-loved parade, featuring music, performers, and other entertainment, will be back. “People want to see the parade, they want to see the march, they want to see the different cultures,” she emphasized.
Versions of the festival have been running for over 25 years, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the Dominican and Puerto Rican parades combined to create what is officially the United Latin Festival. This August’s festivities will include performances from Latin artists as well as food, games, and activities for children and adults alike. And prior to the festival and parade on August 6, there will be a formal gala at Town and Country in Rockland County on June 9th.
Due to increased funding, the event has the potential to be bigger than ever before. The United Latin Festival received a grant to the tune of $8,000 from the Rockland County Department of Economic Development and Tourism back in January.
The grant program, established back in 2016, is meant to help local organizations promote their events locally as well as attracting people from outside Rockland County to visit and participate. The United Latin Festival was one of 29 organizations that received funding this year.
The grant directs funding specifically toward advertising, explained Lucy Redzeposki, director of the economic development and tourism department for Rockland Country.
“The grant programs allow the organizations and the events to be able to promote themselves,”
she said. “The idea is that if you have a small organization or a small event, and they’re trying to advertise and they only have a $10,000 budget – if we’re able to give them another $5,000 or $9,000, that means that they are going to be able to come up with a better marketing plan.”
In the past, the United Latin Festival brought in around 10,000 people, according to Contreras. She said festival-goers travel in from New York City and upstate every year.
“We’ve done a good job of attracting other people to come and look at what we’ve been doing with the festival,” she said, “and enjoying the day and enjoying the different cultures. We do attract a lot of different counties to come down.”
The event receives funding from Rockland’s tourism and economic development department for these very reasons.
“The reason why this festival is so attractive is there is a tourism element,” Redzeposki said. “This festival brings people from all over, not just the county. Every year they do something different.”
She also emphasized the importance of supporting diverse cultures throughout Rockland. “One of the things that we pride ourselves in is the diversity that we have in the county. So we want to make sure that all of these organizations are covered and are equally receiving funding to help promote their events.”
The chance to highlight the beauty of Latin cultures is exactly what Contreeras said she loves most about the United Latin Festival.
“The importance of the recognition of our culture is what we look forward to,” she said.
Photos by Ryan Soto