The annual Hola Festival is one of my favorite events of the year. Sponsored by Hola Hora Latina, the event features something for everyone, from music and dance, to cultural booths about the various countries, great food from various regions and a splash of color in every direction.
The festival was held this past Saturday in and around Regas Square, with booths lining the Gay Street Viaduct, Depot Street and the Square. The main stage, positioned in the center this year, featured a continuous stream of dancers and musicians. The central location improved last year’s festival as did the larger footprint for the entire event.
A section of booths selling a range of items either was added this year or caught my attention for the first time. Leather shoes, ceramic art, small statues, beads and much more filled the colorful booths. Who could resist buying a hand-made bracelet very similar to the one worn by Dora the Explorer herself?
Food plays a central role in the festival, with foods from many Latin American countries represented. The Tootsie Truck and an ice cream truck offered alternatives, but the festival is really about the Latin foods. I always enjoy something delicious and eat a bit too much, and this year proved no exception. The steak tacos and chicken tamale filled me up perfectly so, of course, I added a couple of churros to put me over the top.
In addition to the retail booths and the cultural booths, also included were a large number of informational booths. Fire safety, Knox County Public Library, Casa Sara and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce were all represented as well as a number of others.
Children always figure heavily into the entertainment and this year’s festival continued that tradition. A smaller stage for dancers and singers such as Kukuly Uriarte provided entertainment and actually caught Urban Girl’s attention. She requested to speak to one of the dancers and told her how much she liked her moves. The girl loves dancing.
A large table of volunteers also awaited children who felt a little crafty and provided them materials for making a range of items. This portion did cost five dollars, so some expense was involved. Also included were large inflatable devices which seem to crop up wherever children need entertaining. For one young Urban Girl, this possibly would be proclaimed the highlight of the day as she loved bouncing about inside the inflated Rescue Squad device.
Other entertainers wandered about juggling, riding funny bikes, shaping animal balloons or just being goofy. Llama petting and photographs were offered, but at $5.00 to pet and $8.00 for a photograph, that seemed a bit steep. But if there was one draw powerful enough to make Urban Girl leave her inflated, bouncy universe, it would have to be Dora the Explorer. I’m not sure the attraction, but the girl loves her some Dora and had to be photographed with the heroine herself.
Ending the main portion of entertainment for children, a pinata of a male figure with a soccer ball dangled taunting all young stick holders. After several preliminary attempts, a young man stepped forward and wailed on that bad boy until he yielded all his sweet treats. The children had a blast, but it seemed fewer participated this year.
The air seemed to grow more chilly as the cloud-covered day progressed, but the rain held off throughout the events. Our little group worried more about nap-time than rain or coolness. The Parade of Nations commenced at 2:00, a good hour-and-a-half past a certain three-year-old’s appointed witching hour. We made it without a meltdown, but barely. The Parade is my favorite part of the festival and always merits its own post – and that will be our topic tomorrow. If you love beautiful, colorful photographs, tomorrow is your day.