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Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival to attract thousands during two-day celebration of Latino culture

DES MOINES, IA – Almost 20,000 people are expected to attend the annual Iowa Latino Heritage Festival on Sept. 6 and 7 in downtown Des Moines.

This year’s festival will take place on the Walnut and Locust streets bridges in front of the Embassy Suites Hotel. Organizers expect this year’s festival to attract the largest crowd yet to the event, which has become the most widely attended cultural event in Iowa.

The state’s Latino population continues to grow. There are now more than 158,000 Latino residents in Iowa, which is a 92 percent increase from the 2000 U.S. Census, according to the State Data Center of Iowa. Latinos now represent 5 percent of Iowa’s 3 million residents. By 2040, the Latino population in Iowa is projected to reach 430,344 residents, which will comprise almost 13 percent of the state’s population.

JoAnn Mackey, executive director of Latino Resources, the nonprofit umbrella group that oversees the festival, started the statewide event 11 years ago as a way to celebrate the contributions from the more than 22 Latino countries that are represented in Iowa.

The festival has grown each year, and now thousands attend it to experience the rich and varied Latin-American cultures and traditions found in Iowa.

This year’s events include: a salsa/bachata dance contest, a grito contest, a tribal contest, an elote (corn) eating contest and much more. There also is a children’s area, where kids can makes crafts, break piñatas every hour, play on free inflatable rides and watch “Lucha Libre,” a drama about villains and heroes that is very popular among children and adults. Salsa Des Moines instructors also will be present to teach children how to dance.

There will be entertainment all day long both days at the Simon Estes Amphitheater. Bands range from mariachi to Latin rock. Saturday night there will be a dance with ChiTown from Chicago performing salsa and bachata music. Musical entertainment includes Mariachi Zapata, Joe Quiles, Xplicit and Banda Sensacion

The festival also features a wide variety of food from pupusas, empanadas, elote and aguas frescas to tacos, fruta picada and churros.

Other highlights of the festival include cultural booths that feature the Latin American countries that are represented in Iowa. The individuals in each booth are either from or descendants of that country or are very well educated about the country, its culture and traditions. Booths feature foods, drinks, clothing, games and more about each of the countries.

Cost to attend is $5 for adults and $1 for children 12 and younger. For more information, visit, or contact Mackey at 515-577-3648 or

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