01/08/06 — Festival honors Hispanic traditions

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Festival honors Hispanic traditions

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 8, 2006 2:04 AM

Joseph, Mary and their newborn son walked from inn to inn Saturday hoping someone would offer them shelter from the cold.

After numerous rejections, the shunned couple forged down a dirt road at Waynesborough Historical Village, followed by a large crowd of carolers, before stopping under a cover and placing the sleeping baby Jesus in a vacant manger.

More than 100 people watched the scene as part of the second annual Three Kings Day Festival. The event, hosted by the Hispanic Community Development Center, celebrates Hispanic tradition and included music, dancing and re-enactments from the Bible.

Jorge Sanchez said his wife and children had a great time at the event last year, and have been anticipating this year's celebration for weeks.

"My kids, they wouldn't stop talking about it," he said. "This is their Christmas. They love the piñatas and candy. I come for the tamales."

Local vendors sold burgers, chicken, popcorn and nachos to the crowd. Many, however, were more interested in traditional foods from Hispanic countries -- hot tamales and jalapeños.

"You can get hamburgers anywhere," Sanchez said. "Show me where the tamales are and put all the jalapeños on my nachos, and I'm happy."

City and county officials were also on hand for the event. Mayor Al King greeted the crowd and stressed the contributions of Hispanic residents.

"I am indeed proud of what you bring to the community," he said. "This is a good, good thing here."

County Commissioner Andy Anderson was also in attendance, and was asked by event coordinators to participate in the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph's walk to the manger. And so, for a few minutes Saturday, he became a king.

Dressed in a red cape and crown, Anderson passed out candy to children after paying his respects with the other kings to a sleeping Jesus.

"It was good, but just for a day," Anderson replied when asked how it felt to be a king.

After the three kings made their rounds, dancing stole the show. Decked out in white blouses, jean skirts and cowboy hats, the Tex-Mex girls showed off some traditional dance moves from the coastal regions of Mexico.

When their routine was over, the girls took a bow and exited the area, making way for some slower music and a group of Guatemalan dancers. Their routine reflected the traditions of their home country.

Gaspar Gonzalez, one of the event organizers and chairman of the Wayne County Democratic Party, said the commitment of these performers was extra special.

"These men spend a day of their salary on their costumes," he said of the Guatemalans. "They have a great deal of pride in this."

The costumes featured red bandannas and sashes, white shirts and black pants. Despite the cold, all wore brown sandals. Their costumes, they said, reflected traditional dress back home.

The last dance featured Hispanic American Indians who wore feathered headbands and long red skirts, lined with gold stitching.

When the dancing stopped, the children got a chance to take home more treats as they swung at large, colorful piñatas hanging from the trees.

Willie Cartagena, one of the event coordinators, said this aspect of the celebration was important. After all, he said, the entire afternoon was for the children.

"This day is for them," he said. "The children, it's about the children."