Fiesta is back — bigger and better — at the Civic Center

Fiesta is returning to its roots at the Civic Center.

The Latino cultural festival, which had transitioned to the North Side before a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will again bring food, music, dance, and more to Holland. 
Organizers also moved the festival’s date this year.

Fiesta will be noon to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, July 9, at Civic Center Place, 150 E. Eighth St.

Latin Americans United for Progress is working to be more inclusive of all Latino cultures, LAUP Executive Director Johnny Rodriguez says, and the date change was a conscious choice. For many years, Fiesta took place around Cinco de Mayo and Tulip Time. While Cinco de Mayo is widely known as a Mexican holiday in the U.S., the day’s roots are more complicated than that. The holiday, which marks the Battle of Puebla victory over the French forces of Napoleon III, is celebrated only in a small portion of Mexico. Beer companies popularized it and commercialized it in the U.S. in the 1980s.

'Our own celebration'

Celebrating later in the summer also means Fiesta doesn’t have to compete with Tulip Time for attention or for space Rodriguez says.

“We wanted our own celebration,” he says. "This is a fiesta for the community, and we wanted to celebrate in our own time and our own space."

The day’s events are entirely free with food and other vendors. A Baile (dance) in the evening will have a DJ and band and a small entrance fee.

Starting at noon, entertainment and music will be on tap such as Caribbean band Bacha Popi and break dancers Flow Like Water. There will be tables with businesses, kids activities, recruiting tables, nonprofits, resources, and artisans. 
Fiesta has returned to the Civic Center and will feature a car show with custom and classic vehicles.
In the parking lot east of Taco+Bar (220 W. Eighth St.), the car show will have dozens of classic and custom cars. The youth talent show will kick off the day at 12:15 p.m. and top prize will be a $1,000 unrestricted scholarship. (Second prize is a $500 unrestricted scholarship.)

That unrestricted part is important, Rodriguez says. Many first-generation college students receive scholarships for tuition, but other expenses such as room, board, and books are out of their reach.

'Aqui estamos'

Fiesta’s theme is “Aqui estamos.” or “We are here.” Holland’s population is nearly a quarter Hispanic, according to the latest Census data, and LAUP looks to celebrate and support that with events such as Fiesta as well as programming such as health through Salsa classes, GED tutoring in Spanish, and its youth programs ¡Adelante! and  ¡Más Adelante!. LAUP has also begun Spanish language classes for those who may have Hispanic heritage but who have lost the language of their people. LAUP has been supporting Holland’s Latino population since the 1960s. The first Fiesta was in 1964.
Lu and Tito Reyes pose with the first Fiesta queen in 1964.

“I grew up on 14th Street. I have fond memories of walking down to the Civic Center with my family”

LAUP had interim executive directors for three years before Rodriguez took over the role in October. Since then, LAUP has been re-examining and revamping how it operates, he says.

“There’s so many words that could describe (the transition),” Rodriguez says. “It’s passionate, important, purposeful work. It’s hard to sleep. I want to get up and get going.” 

It’s important, he says, to have services and structures of support set up now for the Latino community as it continues to grow in Holland.

“We have a great deal of momentum,” Rodriguez says.

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.