Celebration opens its second year at the Fairgrounds

Food, fun, and festivity will return to the valley this weekend when the Fiesta Celebration opens its second year at the Hood River County Fairgrounds.

The two-day event will celebrate freedom — Mexican Independence Day, which actually falls on Sept. 16 — with a carnival, food booths, games, music, and more. And it’s free: there is no charge for admission and plenty of free parking is available.

Last year, the Fiesta Celebration drew more than 2,000 people in its single day of existence, despite a lack of advance publicity and mostly word-of-mouth. This year organizers have geared up for a bigger, better event, expanding it to two days and patterning it after similar celebrations in Mexico.

“Word has spread fast — there has been a lot of communication and a lot of response from businesses in the Portland area who want to participate as well,” said organizer David Kirkwood of the Pine Grove/Odell United Methodist Church.

Mexican Independence Day is not to be confused with Cinco de Mayo, also often called Mexico’s Independence Day. Sept. 16, 1810, was the day Mexico declared its independence from Spain, whereas Cinco de Mayo celebrates a battle won over the occupying French army about 50 years later. Of the two, 16 de Septiembre is the bigger celebration in Mexico.

This year, in addition to the food booths, mariachis and folk dancers that made last year’s event such a success, the Fiesta has grown to include carnival rides, a car show, and soccer tournament. The pinatas and face painting, carnitas and other crowd-pleasers will still be there, but in greater numbers.

Three bands have signed on for this year’s celebration: last year’s headliner, Los Diamantes del Norte; Los Temerosos, a mariachi band; and La Fantasia, a dance band.

The gate will open at noon on Saturday and stay open until 10 p.m.; on Sunday, the hours will be from noon to 6 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Pine Grove/Odell United Methodist Church, Mid Valley Market, and a host of other generous supporters, most notably Hood River Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Columbia River Bank, whose sponsorship organizer Kirkwood seemed especially grateful for.

“Support has been overwhelming,” Kirkwood said. “(The event) has grown significantly in size and acceptance, not just in the Hispanic community but the whole community,” he said.

Not only is the event a fun one, but it also serves to connect nonprofit agencies with those who might be in need of their services. Last year there were several informational booths providing literature of particular interest to Hispanics, and the same will be true this year. The Fiesta Celebration got its start as an outreach, and despite its growth that’s what it remains.

“No one’s making any money on this event (sponsor-wise),” Kirkwood said. “It’s just a chance to bring the community together and have some fun.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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