OTTUMWA — Saturday’s downpour of rain did not stop hundreds of people from enjoying the smell of Mexican food wafting around or watching and dancing to Mariachi music at ¡VIVA! Ottumwa.
For many, ¡VIVA! Ottumwa was a celebration of food, fun, fellowship, music and a celebration of different cultures. Children were busy with crafts, enjoying themselves at the bounce house, vendors were busy engaging with attendees and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) members (the hosts of ¡VIVA! Ottumwa) were walking around talking with different people.
Planning the festival wasn’t an overnight process by any means. It took different people to make the festival possible. Edith Cabrera-Tello, 337 LULAC president, said it took more than six months of preparation in order to have the first ¡VIVA! Ottumwa. The entire LULAC board voted on having the festival, which is something they wanted to do to not only celebrate different cultures, but also raise funds to build scholarships for high school and community college students.
While Cabrera-Tello was not expecting heavy rain, she was pleased with the turnout. “It was a good opportunity for people to get together and enjoy other people,” she said. “We came together to better ourselves as a community and to find ways to support each other.”
Cabrera-Tello loved how people were getting to know LULAC. “We want to inspire our Hispanic community with educational and social support and for everybody,” she said. “People are now seeing us not just as an organization for Hispanics, but for other people as well.”
Market on Main Operations Manager Shiloh Seim was one of the primary people to coordinate ¡VIVA! Ottumwa. Initially LULAC wanted the festival to be downtown, but because of the construction, members decided to host the festival at Jimmy Jones Shelter at the park. Seim was grateful the festival was at the park and to get lots of help from different vendors like JBS and Indian Hills.
Despite the weather, Seim was pleased with the festival turnout.
“There’s so many people that are so positive and great reinforcement,” Seim said. “I feel very privileged to be part of something that will bring so many people together. It’s spectacular how people shine when things are getting so tough.”
YMCA CEO Tom Sisler came to represent the YMCA because he, along with other YMCA workers, wanted to be a part of the celebration of bringing people together.
“I love seeing families and grandparents doing something together,” Sisler said. “I like the exposure of many different cultures and backgrounds and music. I want people to be able to celebrate diversity all year long.”
Janet Gouvey came to enjoy the festival and said she was glad she came. “It had lots to offer to the kids and family,” Gouvey said. “There was lots to enjoy; I hope they had a good time.”
Kylee Martin, a vendor from Family First Chiropractic Clinic, wanted to come out to also be part of the diversity and community, no matter the “rain or shine.”
“I hope other people say it’s a rich tradition we have here,” Martin said. “Rain didn’t keep me away from celebrating our culture here and come together as a family and celebrate ¡VIVA! Ottumwa.”