INDEPENDENCE — The Community Fiesta has seen some changes over the last few decades, but it has been happening in some form for about 35 years.
It has continued in spite of several location changes, occasional power outages, and even a couple years without an event.
“Through all the struggles and everything, it was worth it because it just never ended,” said Elena Peña, chairman of the fiesta. “We just kept doing it.”
2018 Community Fiesta
Admission is $2 per person on Saturday. Children 10 and younger are free. This is a smoke-free and alcohol-free party.
This event is sponsored by the IM Community and The City of Independence.
Friday Aug. 24
4:30 p.m. – Fuego Baile Folklorico
5 p.m. – Los Alvarado Jr.
6:15 p.m. – Coronation of New Fiesta Queen
7 p.m. – Felino Salvaje
8:15 p.m. – Fantasmas
Saturday, Aug. 25
8 a.m. – Benediction
8:30 a.m. – Estudio Fuego Zumba
9:30 a.m. – Fun run/walk
11 a.m. – Open talent welcome
12 p.m. – Children’s entertainment, Zepillin Clown
2 p.m. – Musica con Colores de America Y Galaguetza
4 p.m. – Los Viejitos Dance Group
4:15 p.m. – Danza Azteca Ameyaltonal Noroeste
5 p.m. – Genio Lucas
6 p.m. – Romance
7:45 p.m. – Genio Lucas
8 p.m. – Efusivo StruEendo
10 p.m. – Nuevo Mazandunga
Sunday, Aug. 26
8:30 a.m. – Doors open
11 a.m. – Mass at park
1:30 p.m. – Los Tenix
2:30 p.m. – Sonido Ilusion
3 p.m. – Vladimir Agreción de Tierra Caliente
4:30 p.m. – Los Tenix
The three-day event, sponsored by IM Community and the City of Independence, features Latino performers and speakers, and is open to all.
The fiesta started as kind of a carnival at St. Patrick’s Church about 35 years ago, said Peña.
The following year, the people who put it on didn’t want to do it anymore, so she and a group of volunteers took on the task, she said.
“We just kind of helped and made it bigger, and then it got bigger and then we had to move from the church because the neighborhood folks were saying we were making too much noise because we had a band,” Peña said.
The group moved the fiesta to a store in Monmouth owned by Charlie Caldwell, Peña said.
“They were so good to us,” she said. “They really embraced the fiesta and all that, but it was so big, there were so many people that it caused a lot of traffic.”
Eventually the fiesta landed at Independence Riverview Park.
“The city has been supporting us for a long time,” Peña said. “That was way before we had even a stage.”
“We’ve seen all the stages that the park has gone through,” she added with a laugh.
Independence City Manager David Clyne said he goes to the fiesta every year.
“I think it’s a great Independence event,” Clyne said. “It’s every bit as important an event as Independence Days are to this community. It’s a great celebration of our cultural heritage and diversity.”
The event used to take place in September to coincide with Mexican Independence Day.
The fiesta moved to August in part because of the unpredictable weather.
“A lot of years it didn’t rain, but one year we got so wet that everyone ran home,” Peña laughed.
One recent change is that there is now a $2 charge to attend on Saturday, when most of the musicians play. Donations will be accepted on Friday and Sunday.
“It takes a lot of money to bring groups,” Peña said. “We’ve had a lot of groups that have donated (their time), but they can’t be doing that forever.”
In addition to dancers and musicians, the fiesta has a motivational speaker.
“We want to have something that is more than just entertainment and dancing and all of that. We need to have some kind of motivation for the people,” Peña said. “We have this (Alex) Genio Lucas who is a very good motivation speaker.”
Lucas has a radio show on KWIP-AM 880. Jose Alfaro from KWIP will emcee, Peña said.
“Genio means what kind of attitude you carry,” Peña said. “He does motivational speeches. He’s been with us for four years.”
“He’s like the Ryan Seacrest of the Hispanic community,” Peña’s son Raul chimed in. “To me that’s who he is. A lot of people look up to him.”
About 10,000 people attended last year’s event, Peña said.
“And he’s the one who brought the people,” she said. “I was really happy because I wanted something for the community, to make it a stronger community. Because that’s the idea.”
Peña said she feels fortunate that the city supports the event.
“I think we have the most beautiful park in the whole United States because it’s all, like, connected,” Peña said. “The Independence park adds its beauty to the fiesta.”
Clyne said he is pleased the event is part of of the “premier offerings” Independence has for the public.
“In all these years, we dedicate this party to God,” Peña said. “In all these years, he’s helped us out. We have a faith that he’s there with us.”