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New festival presents offering of tradition, art, and wellness to South Bay - The Mercury News

Author: The Mercury News

Source: https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/10/29/new-festival-presents-offering-of-tradition-art-and-wellness-to-south-bay/

Image of New festival presents offering of tradition, art, and wellness to South Bay - The Mercury News

Under cloudless blue skies, young mariachi performers blanketed downtown Gilroy in harmonies, accompanying the thousands of visitors who danced, haggled, and dined at La Ofrenda festival this Saturday.While the festival is only in its inaugural year, attendees say it fills a much-needed space in the South Bay, and organizers hope it is just the first of many to come.“People have been yearning for this,” said festival attendee and Hayward resident Christina Fletes-Romo.“It’s great to have an event like this in Gilroy, (a place) that’s often overlooked.”Leroy Gonsalez, of Gilroy, honors the occasion during the inaugural La Ofrenda Festival which celebrates Dia de los Muertos in downtown Gilroy, Calif., on Saturday, Oct.28, 2023.People dressed in decorative Day of the Dead attires enjoy the festival featuring traditional altars, offerings characteristic of the holiday, food, art, live music, informative booths and free wellness screenings. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) The event, billed as Gilroy’s inaugural Dia de los Muertos and wellness fair, featured more than 80 booths of artists, vendors, and community organizations.Children rode around a “bike rodeo” course, former farm workers found job assistance from local nonprofits and foodies sipped on aguas frescas and munched on tacos.Meanwhile, other attendees took advantage of free health check ups, paid their respects to deceased loved ones at over a dozen hand-built altars, and viewed a massive offering called La Gran Ofrenda, built by a cohort of local artists.The blend of typical festival fare with arts, community resources, and tradition was deliberate.“The intention was bridging the gap between arts, culture, and wellness and being able to address all parts of our humanity,” said Rubén Dario Villa, the lead organizer of the event.The seeds of the festival were planted by a group of Gilroy artists known as the the Gilroy Arts Roundtable, a group first brought together by the Silicon Valley arts nonprofit SV Creates.“We all felt like there’s been a gap in bringing the community together since we lost the Garlic Festival,” said Dario Villa.“We’ve all kind of been looking for ways to fill that void in a beautiful way.”A gunman killed three people in a mass shooting at the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival and it wasn’t held in 2020 because of the pandemic. In 2022, the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association announced the large festival was canceled indefinitely.A line of marigold flowers also knowns as the flower of the dead, form a trail to the one of the altars displayed on 5th Street during the inaugural La Ofrenda Festival which celebrates Dia de los Muertos in downtown Gilroy, Calif., on Saturday, Oct.28, 2023.People dressed in decorative Day of the Dead attires enjoy the festival featuring traditional altars, offerings characteristic of the holiday, food, art, live music, informative booths and free wellness screenings.(Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) The new La Ofrenda festival was funded through a mix of public and private donors, including a $20,000 Elevate the Arts grant funded by Santa Clara County, the City of Gilroy, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.Given Gilroy’s large Hispanic community, over 58% according to the latest census data, Dario Villa and his coconspirators thought it was important to build a festival that took into account the cultural background of the city.“If we don’t address the cultural needs of our youth, and we don’t pass down these traditions and these kinds of celebrations and history, then it can quickly get lost,” said Dario Villa.“It serves the part of handing the baton to the next generation, allowing them to kind of feel empowered by an understanding of cultural tradition and celebration.”“We need more of this,” said attendee and Gilroy resident Mark Segovia. “Our majority is Latino, but we don’t have a (Latino) presence in the festivals.We need our kids to see the culture.”The organizers also sought to help address the health disparities present in the community: historically, Gilroy residents face worse health outcomes and higher rates of obesity than the rest of Santa Clara County.“Let’s celebrate those who have passed, but let’s all also honor ourselves with self care and health and well being,” said Toni Bowles, one of the co-organizers of the event.Dario Villa and the team hope the event is the first of many: He is already planning on growing the festival five to ten years out.Regardless of the future of the festival, the event offered many attendees a place of remembrance now.“I’m from Jalisco; I know these songs,” said Maria Reynoso, a Hollister resident, as the mariachi band played on.“I feel like I’m at home.”

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