2014 Latin Fest draws locals for culture lesson

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It was a celebration of Latin American culture and tradition at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum on Saturday. In conjunction with the Coliseum Summer Fair, more than a dozen Latin American countries celebrated their culture in the 2014 South Mississippi Latin Fest.

"They've got music. They've got vendors here and dancing," Coast Coliseum Assistant Executive Director Matt McDonnell said. "Anything you could want from the adults on this side, and then you've got the carnival with the summer fair for the kids."

Tracy Crevier says she appreciates the diversity of the Coast, and she is taking advantage of the Latin Fest to learn a little bit more about Latin heritage and culture.

"Ever since Hurricane Katrina, we have a great mixture of people now, and we have more diverse cultures coming into our area, and I think we need to know about each other," Crevier said.

Different countries were able to show off some of their cultures with food, dancing and even cars.

"It's very important for the people, because all Latinos have different styles. We show everybody the style we have. We have the different music too and Latinos from Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras have different regions, countries," event promoter Luis Neri said.

McDonnell hopes this year is just the beginning for groups who want to use the Coliseum for multi-cultural events.

"I think that sometimes people are reluctant or kind of stand offish about wanting to utilize our facility here because they maybe don't understand maybe how to book it. We wanted to show particularly here in the Latin community, that there are so many things here they can do here in these facilities, and this is a great way for them to see the facility, enjoy themselves and really feel welcome here to where they'll come back and book," McDonnell said.

Along with the different food choices and great music, the festival featured a margarita contest, the best folkloric dress contest and a competition to determine who has the best salsa on the Coast.

McDonnell says from Saturday's turn out, he looks forward to making the Latin Festival an annual event, along with the Coliseum Summer Fair.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.