SPRING HILL — It is a festival that almost wasn’t. Two years ago, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, organizers considered canceling the inaugural event. But the weekend after the hurricane hit — and while many residents were still without power — the Hispanic Heritage Festival of Hernando County was born.
It proved to be a hit, with more than 2,000 people attending in 2017. And the numbers doubled with last year’s festival.
The third-annual Hispanic Heritage Festival, hosted by the Miss Hispanic Queen of Hernando County, returns to the Lake House on Sept. 21. Festival-goers will have an opportunity to experience the culture, food and music of the Latino community.
The festival evolved from a dance celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and featuring the Miss Hispanic Queen pageant. It was popular from the onset, and finding a venue to accommodate everyone became more difficult every year. So organizers decided to join forces with the county.
“It really has been great working with Harry (Johnson) and his team at Hernando County Recreation,” said Vivian Rivera-Hernandez, founder and president of Miss Hispanic Queen of Hernando County.
The festival will feature live entertainment and dancing — salsa, merengue, cumbia, vallenato, bachata and more. There will be DJs, food vendors, commercial and craft vendors, a kids zone, raffles and the crowning of the Miss Hispanic Queen of Hernando County 2019.
“There will be a little bit of everything,” Rivera-Hernandez said.
Entertainment includes Larry Duran, a 12-piece Latin band, a Mexican dance group, Son D’ Barrio, and others. There also will be local entertainers, including a group of young performing arts students from Stir Up the Gift. They will perform the National Anthem, as well as a choreographed dance with Latin music.
“I just love them,” Rivera-Hernandez said. “(Stir Up the Gift) really has some great talent.”
And what would celebrating Hispanic heritage without the food?
A number of food trucks will be selling ethnic dishes, such as pork and rice, empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, frozen sangria and pina coladas. Beer and wine will be available. Hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue dishes and more food items, also available.
The family event is to “come together and unite us as a community," Rivera-Hernandez said
If you go
What: Hispanic Heritage Festival of Hernando County
When: 2 to 10 p.m. Sept. 21
Where: The Lake House, 1202 Kenlake Ave., Spring Hill
Cost: Admission is free; parking is $5.
Details: No coolers, tents or outside food or drink is allowed. Those attending are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets.