Latino fest rocks courthouse square

As hundreds bobbed their heads to the sound of a female mariachi band, dozens of children scrambled to gather candy pouring from an Elmo piata. Chili powder and cinnamon were sprinkled on nearly every food consumed. The annual Marshalltown Latino Festival was underway.

Sunday, in the Marshall County Courthouse square, festival goers enjoyed all the event had to offer, including music, food, children’s games and dozens of vendors.

Jenny Etter, director of the Marshalltown Central Business District, which helps organize the event, said the flow of people was constant through the first couple of hours.

Deborah Cisneros, 58, of Marshalltown, said she attended Latino fest last year. The crowd at this year’s festival seemed a little bigger, she said. Cisneros said she is originally from Kansas, where they have regular fiestas.

“I like to listen to the music,” she said. “It’s all about the music.”

The festival helps encourage Latinos to gather in one place to celebrate their heritage and mingle with people of other cultures, who also benefit by being able to see what Marshalltown’s large Latino population brings to the area, Cisneros said.

According to the 2010 census, nearly 24 percent of Marshalltown’s population is Latino.

The festival ran from noon to 7 p.m. and featured a variety of musical acts, including traditional Aztec band Tanatzin Nahui. The Marshalltown High School Latin Dance Team, Xtreme Dancers and the St. Mary’s children’s choir also performed.

Dick Klaessy, with the Matins Kiwanis club, said his group attends Latino fest every year to sell funnel cakes. He said he volunteered for the event because he enjoys the food and music. The club has been at every Latino fest and always does well.

“The people that come here like funnel cakes,” he said.

More than 20 vendors sold everything from Latin food to handmade jewelry and art.

Michele Garrett, of Marshalltown, works for U.S. Cellular. She ordered a funnel cake, saying the food was her favorite part of the festival.

U.S. Cellular had a booth where Garrett worked, touting their two new bilingual staff members.

Children scurried about, participating in a variety of games and face painting.

Eduardo Lopez, 34, of Marshalltown, said he only recently moved to Marshalltown from California.

“It’s all different. I like it so far,” he said. “We are going to try a little bit of everything.”