Mesa Riverview will celebrate the traditions and contributions of the city's growing Hispanic community with its first annual Hispanic Heritage Festival.
The three-day event, which starts 6 p.m. Thursday, coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month.
"We have seen how other cities recognize their Hispanic communities, and we wanted to be the first to recognize the Hispanic population here," said Amy Monier of Martz Agency, the firm helping Mesa Riverview organize the festival.
Mesa has seen its Hispanic community continue to grow with an increase of over 53,000 during the year ending July 2007. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, 27 percent of the population in Mesa is Hispanic.
Phil Austin, a Mesa attorney and president of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens, said efforts to advance Hispanic heritage are long overdue.
"Most of the time we hear negatives related to our ethnic background," he said. "Historically, the Hispanic community hasn't been celebrated and to overcome that, it is good to gather together and recognize the beauty of one's culture."
All the events this week will be held at Mesa Riverview's theatre district, 1061 N. Dobson Road, south of the Loop 202 - between the Bass Pro Shops and Cinemark Theatres.
Live music will be performed each day, including the band Nosotros Thursday, and the bands !MAS! and Diva from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday.
Carmela Ramirez, a performer with the group Diva, said her performances not only entertain but teach the history of Hispanic music. She added that the Hispanic community includes a mix of Hispanic cultures, so it's important that events like this one celebrate each culture and tradition.
On Saturday, the band Los Rebeldes performs mariachi, the Ballet Folklorico performs traditional Latin American dances in full costume, and Novo Mundo performs music from Brazil, Cuba and Mexico.
The festival will feature special entertainment for kids including balloon sculpting, face painting, clowns, and several workshops led by South of the Border Artisans who will teach traditional paper flower art.
The Home Depot will host workshops for children and their parents from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.
Monier said she is expecting about 2,000 people during the entire festival.
"We have various retailers or tenants at Mesa Riverview who are proud members of the local Hispanic community," she said. "We are celebrating with them and recognize them for the contributions they have made to the community."