Hispanic Heritage Celebration

Norfolk will have its first Hispanic Heritage Celebration on Friday afternoon and evening, which is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Friday’s event will feature traditional dancers, informational videos, live mariachi music, food trucks, a DJ who will play Selena music for the first 30 minutes and more, said Mayra Mendoza, community organizer for Heartland Workers Center and chairperson of the Norfolk Area Diversity Council.

The diversity council and workers center are co-sponsoring the celebration along with the Elkhorn Valley Museum, Mendoza said.

The diversity council has held Cinco de Mayo celebrations, but Mendoza said this will be the first Hispanic heritage celebration in Norfolk that she is aware of.

Mendoza said the diversity council wanted to hold a broader celebration of Hispanic heritage and culture. So far, the idea seems to appeal to people.

“The interest from the community has been great,” Mendoza said. “I think people are ready to celebrate (Hispanic heritage).”

Additionally, Mendoza has been doing presentations at Norfolk High School this week on Hispanic culture. These include students doing a craft project that will be used as decorations at the event itself, she said.

Mendoza said students seemed to enjoy the presentations.

“My expectations have been exceeded. It has been a great success,” she said. “Students were very engaged in the presentation. They liked what we talked about.”

A part of Mendoza’s presentations has been on the history of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

In 1968, Sept. 15 was chosen as the start of a one-week celebration because several Latin American countries celebrated their independence days that week. In 1988, the week was expanded to a whole month, Mendoza said.

For Friday’s event, Mendoza hopes to see a good turnout but is unsure what to expect, she said.

“As far as numbers that we’re hoping to see at the event, we don’t know. It could be anywhere from 50 to 100. But it could be 150 to 300,” she said. “We don’t know, this is our first one. But we’re hoping it’s successful so we can continue doing celebrations.”

The sponsors would like to do a much bigger event in the future, and this year’s celebration will be a test to see what the potential for that is, Mendoza said.

“We’re wanting to have a bigger event, but we knew we couldn’t plan that today because of the time. We wanted to bring bigger bands, like a baile, a dance, we wanted to have margaritas. So, maybe next year have that type of environment, event,” Mendoza said. “This will let us know if people are really ready to have something like this in our community. This was just kind of put together in two, three weeks. We didn’t have a lot of time.”

The museum is hosting the event.

“The museum really has been trying to bring more representation, equity and diversity into our program offerings and to the events we have here,” said Libby McKay, education coordinator at the museum. “I’m really hopeful that members of our Hispanic community come and help celebrate this, but I’m also hoping that other members of the community, who maybe have never experienced some of the things we offer at this event, come out and check it out. I think events like this are a great opportunity to foster understanding of different cultures ... and engage in a way that normally we maybe wouldn’t be able to.”

The event will go from 4:30 to 9 p.m. at the museum, 515 Queen City Blvd. Admission is free.

In other news

A one-act play about death is on the schedule for entertainment this week as the 2021 Nebraska State Play Production competition gets underway at Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk.