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Lorain's annual 'Fiestas Patronales' this weekend at Sacred Heart

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LORAIN — Rey Carrion attended his first Sacred Heart Chapel’s annual Fiestas Patronales exactly 40 years ago. The Lorain resident said the experience was transformative.

“Coming in as a kid, you saw a lot of activity,” said Carrion, who is currently Patronales chairman. “You saw a lot of collaboration between the Hispanic community and other folks.

“It was an intergenerational event where you saw people from so many different walks of life and ages come together and celebrate the time together, celebrate the people, celebrate the church, celebrate the culture and celebrate the city. That pretty much has not changed over the years.”

The 66th Fiestas Patronales takes place Friday to Sunday at Lorain’s Sacred Heart Chapel. Billed as the premier Spanish-American festival, the event features attractions and events for all ages.

In addition to authentic Mexican and Puerto Rican food, sweets and pastries, traditional folk dancing and Spanish music, Sacred Heart Chapel’s largest fundraising event is targeting kids this year with games and activities.

“It hasn’t been done at this level in some years, so we’re trying to bring that back and focus on affordable form of entertainment for families,” Carrion said.

“We’re also playing a brand-new ‘Family Feud’ game from 4 to 9 p.m. on Saturday. We have 16 church families signed up to play. So we’re hoping that with some of the other things we’re bringing in they’ll have a big draw and really serve as a kind of a resurgence of what this festival means to Lorain and means to Sacred Heart.”

This year’s musical lineup Saturday features Grupo Desperado (3 to 4 p.m.), Son Gitano (5 to 7 p.m.) and Sammy DeLeon y su Orquesta (8 to 10 p.m.). Scheduled to perform Sunday are Grupo Millenium (3 to 5 p.m.), Latin City Soul (5 to 7 p.m.) and Papo Ruiz y la dulzura de la Salsa (8 to 10 p.m.).

The goal for this year’s festival is to boost attendance. In years past, roughly 10,000 people would attend the three-day affair. This year Carrion said he’d be happy with more than half that amount.

He feels this year’s Fiestas Patronales theme “One Body, One Spirit” will attract people. The initiative promotes inclusion, diversity and equity in the community.

“Not only in a way we can promote the Hispanic culture, but we can also embrace the entire community that’s here,” Carrion said. “That’s what makes this great country: We can all co-exist with each other.”

Considering today’s political climate, Carrion said Fiestas Patronales takes on a different meaning in the community.

“Absolutely, we are in changing times in our world and nation,” Carrion said. “Folks in our community are impacted by some of the decisions being made. We see it. There’s a different tone, a different sentiment in terms of what being Hispanic and being here in Ohio or in the United States means.

“People now are different than years ago, and we want to be here as a church. We want to make sure that we provide that support, that comfort, the education and the resources for families in need. We’re seeing that now.”

Contact John Benson at ndiffrence@att.net.

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