Lexington's annual celebration of Latin American culture might be shorter than previous years, but Lexington Parks and Recreation and the city's Latino community expect it to be no less of a fiesta.
The Festival Latino de Lexington, which has been held over two or three days in past years, was compressed into one day this fall after city budget negotiations in the spring. It will be Saturday at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza downtown.
"We were looking at programs that could be reduced or consolidated, and this particular program was a big draw on our resources," said Amber Luallan, the cultural arts director with Parks and Recreation who coordinates the Festival Latino.
The event receives private sponsorship for programs and entertainment, but policing the event, closing roads and overtime staffing for city maintenance workers create what Luallan called a "huge expenditure" over two or three days.
According to Irene Jarman, a talk-show host on La Pantera, a Lexington Spanish-language radio station, the cut has caused some disappointment but no less enthusiasm.
"We understand that we fall under the umbrella of Parks and Recreation," she said. "Everybody knows what's going on with the recession right now, with the economy, so we support our government."
Aside from hosting Chat and Charla on WKXO-1490 and -1500 AM, Jarman is a community liaison between Parks and Recreation and Lexington's Latino community.
The Festival Latino occurs during National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile, as well as Columbus Day, fall in that period.
This year's celebration will open at 11:30 a.m. with a presentation by Fayette County elementary schools on Latin American countries and culture and will wind down between 9:30 and 11 p.m. with a performance by Grupo Fuego, a tropical music and dance group from Cleveland.
In between, festival-goers can expect the usual authentic Latin American food, dress and dance; information booths; large, diverse crowds; and music from the Central Kentucky groups Water, Peligro Musical and Efecto-H, and the Louisville band "C" Style.
Fireworks begin at 8 p.m.
Fifteen Latin American countries will be represented at this year's festival.
"So much of what we know or see, especially foods, is primarily Mexican. We really try to focus on all of Latin America," Luallan said. "Each year, we try to find more and more people from the different countries to participate."
This will be the seventh anniversary of the Festival Latino, but the ninth year that it has been attempted. The first festival was planned in 2001, but it was canceled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"The Hispanic community came to us and said they didn't feel good about having a celebration so soon after such a tragedy," said Rudy Cruse, recreation manager with Parks and Recreation. In 2002, the event was planned and set up but was canceled because of poor weather.
"It absolutely poured rain," Luallan said. "Knock on wood — that hasn't happened since."
The forecast for Saturday's festival is partly sunny with a high of 60 and a low of 44, according to The Weather Channel. Barring a weather emergency, 10,000 to 15,000 people are expected to attend.
Reach Josh Kegley at (859) 231-3200 or 1-800-950-6397.