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January 18, 2018

Weekend festivals highlight Northwest Arkansas immigrants

Weekend festivals highlight Northwest Arkansas immigrants

Northwest Arkansas groups this weekend are celebrating the region’s immigrants as immigration takes the national spotlight. The two-day Hispanic Heritage…

Northwest Arkansas groups this weekend are celebrating the region’s immigrants as immigration takes the national spotlight.

The two-day Hispanic Heritage Festival in Fayetteville kicks off today, and Springdale’s joining in this afternoon with a Welcoming Week NWA celebration at Shiloh Square. Even the Little Rock Mexican Consulate held a celebration of Mexican independence Friday evening in Springdale.

Weekend schedule

NWA Hispanic Heritage Festival

• Runs 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday at Mae Farm, 4618 N. College Ave., Fayetteville

• Runs 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Fayetteville downtown square, including a parade around 1:30 p.m.

Welcome Week NWA 2017 Festival

• Runs 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Shiloh Square, 106 E. Emma Ave., Springdale

Source: Staff report

The events come as Congress and President Donald Trump discuss what to do with the country’s immigration policies, including whether to protect young immigrants brought illegally into the country as children from deportation. An Arkansas senator is also calling for cutting legal immigration in half.

The Springdale and Fayetteville festivals’ organizers insisted they aren’t intended to be political; the heritage festival kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month, which has been observed around the country for decades. Instead, the two events will highlight the food, dance and other contributions immigrants have brought to the area and are open and free to people of any culture.

“It’s definitely become a staple event, I’d say, for Hispanic Heritage Month,” Michel Rangel, deputy director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition that runs an immigrant resource center in Springdale, said this week, referring to the Fayetteville celebration. “It has something for everyone.”

The Hispanic festival focuses on Latin American immigrants while the Welcoming Week includes as its focus immigrants and refugees from anywhere in the world.

This is the Hispanic Heritage Festival’s fifth year, and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce expects a big crowd starting at 11 a.m., said Chris Decker, the chamber’s events and professional services director. The chamber organizes the festival and estimated more than 10,000 people came out last year for food, games, informational booths and a soccer tournament.

“We’ve had great community support,” he said, including a partnership this year with the Spanish-language TV channel Univision Arkansas. “This is something we do believe in, and we want to be a welcoming community, a welcoming region.”

Each year highlights a different Latin American country, with Argentina getting the nod this year. Chamber representatives traveled to the country this year and hope to grow a partnership between universities there and the University of Arkansas, according to the chamber’s website.

More than 80,000 Northwest Arkansas residents are Hispanic, meaning they or their families hail from Spanish-speaking countries, according to census estimates. They’ve powered much of the region’s growth in the past two decades and are expected to keep growing in numbers for years to come.

In the meantime, Hispanic people make up about half of the school districts in Rogers and Springdale. Their presence helped inspire a Latino film festival at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and annual Hispanic music festivals at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion, not to mention the restaurants lining Springdale’s main streets.

“It’s really, I think, more important than ever to focus on celebrating the Latino culture in the United States and what they bring to our country and our state and our community,” said Gregory Fess, president of the Univision affiliate Pinnacle Media in Little Rock.

The festival will continue Sunday with a parade of nations around the Fayetteville square at about 1:30 p.m., Fess said.

Trump this month decided to end an Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides temporary work permits to hundreds of thousands of young, mostly Mexican immigrants who entered the country as minors and meet other conditions. Rangel said the coalition will hold a march in support of the program just before the parade to try to keep politics separate from the festival.

The Springdale event runs from 1 to 4:30 p.m. today and marks Welcoming Week, a national effort to connect immigrants and refugees with their new communities. It’ll feature music, a food truck and groups such as the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese and university organizations for Native Americans and Hmong students, whose ethnic group originates in southeast Asia.

Terry Bankston leads the group organizing the event, EngageNWA, and said he’s thrilled different events focused on immigrants are happening at once and isn’t worried about them taking attendance from each other.

“When I look at the whole of the weekend, I couldn’t be more satisfied with all of the diverse activities going on,” he said. “This is just an opportunity for people to get out, bring their children, bring their families and just have some fun.”

NW News on 09/16/2017

Source: NWA Online Northwest Arkansas News Weekend festivals highlight Northwest Arkansas immigrants

Weekend festivals highlight Northwest Arkansas immigrants


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