I’ve made no secret in the past of my love of the Hola Festival. As is the case for several other festivals, it brings a mix of people to downtown who aren’t usually as prevalent. It’s the only time of the year that English and Spanish are spoken with about the same frequency.
The festival, which continued on Market Square this year but stretched to two days, is also a sensory overload. Music fills the air from the stage where a stream of dancers and musicians entertain the large crowds. The first day of the festival this year consisted of entertainment on Saturday evening from the Market Square Stage. The Orquesta de Jaime Bonilla, as well as the Music City Salsa dance team had the large crowd dancing and laughing into the night. Spontaneous conga lines and salsa dancing, as well as some interesting variations ruled the night.
As always, the children made for some of the most compelling photographs on both days. Some were part of the festival, while others participated – or not in some cases. Plenty of activities were provided for the young ones, including fur identification and fishing (with a magnet) offered by the park service. Large inflatable slides, crafts and face painting kept them busy and Bimbo the Bear and Ronald McDonald added to the fun.
The music and dance continued on Sunday and the aroma of delicious foods from the two-dozen or so different countries represented made downtown smell like a small feast. Our food came from the Honduran booth, but it all looked good. The truth is the choices are pretty overwhelming, but there really isn’t a wrong answer to the question of what to eat.
The culminating event each year is the Parade of Nations and it is simply one of the most colorful and visually arresting moments in the downtown year. Many Central and South American and Caribbean countries are represented along with Spain. While the entire day offers glimpses and chance encounters with the participants in their beautiful costumes, the parade is the best way to see the full range of the attire and to pair it with its country of origin.
The biggest drawback to the Market Square site for the festival is an inadequate place for the parade. This year’s parade also started late and there was a large amount of confusion as to the starting point, ending point and route in between. It ultimately started with no warning and rushed by. It also seemed smaller than in previous years. Still, the images show there was much to enjoy, but I do hope this part of the festival might be improved by next year.
The photographs are obviously the draw to this story, so I’ll let them finish the piece. I really would encourage you to attend in the future if you’ve missed it before. I realize there is always a keen competition for your time downtown, but this is one festival that really shouldn’t be missed.