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Latin festival focuses on family fun

Offering everything from bagpipers to a SWAT team, the Reach for the Stars festival will raise scholarship money for local students.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- This weekend, a chance to reach for the stars will be as close as the Hernando County Fairgrounds.

In an effort to unite the community behind the future of Hernando County's youth, the Latin American Civic and Cultural Association is having its Reaching for the Stars Family Fun Festival. Featuring games, music and food, the festival is geared toward not just the Latin American community, but people from all walks of life, festival coordinator DiAna Carrasquillo said.

"I've found that as long as there is something for the whole family, people will come," said Carrasquillo, who has been involved with local events such as the World's Greatest Baby Shower, the Festival of Reading and the Week of the Young Child. "And we have everything from bagpipers to a helicopter SWAT team."

To date, the festival will be the association's most ambitious event. Money raised will benefit the group's scholarship fund, said Gladys Petersen, chairwoman of the group's scholarship committee.

"This is an opportunity to promote Latin culture and our roots and beliefs and way of thinking about education," Petersen said. "There should be a higher percentage of kids going on to college, and we are trying to make a difference."

This year, Petersen said, the group granted three $500 scholarships to Hernando County high school students. Awards are not given on the basis of ethnicity, she said, but need, grades and involvement in the community.

Live music by the band Somos Musica and a DJ are planned in McKethan Auditorium at the fairgrounds. On the rest of the grounds, there will be games, pony rides, a petting zoo and crafts from soap to candles, Carrasquillo said. Dancing and a beauty pageant are planned during the day, and 100 items will be raffled.

"We wanted to flood the fairgrounds with a real variety and a diversity of attractions," she said. "There will really be something for everyone."

Besides raising money for a good cause, Petersen said, the festival is a chance for residents to learn about the civic and cultural association, which also is involved in such programs as Meals on Wheels and Adopt-a-Road.

"We want the whole community to get to know us better, listen to our music and spend some time," said Petersen, who is from Costa Rica and works as a substitute teacher. "This has all the makings of a good festival."

The scholarship gives the group a vehicle for helping kids, Petersen said.

"We want our kids to say, "The sky is the limit -- we can do it.' "

If you go

The Latin American Civic and Cultural Association's Reaching for the Stars Family Fun Festival will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Hernando County Fairgrounds on U.S. 41, on the south side of Brooksville. Admission is $3. Armbands, good for pony rides, games, the moon walk and a petting zoo, will be $5. Call 666-4756.

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