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Santa Ana Festival Strives to Diversify Its Crowd

Events: The Fiestas de las Americas, which hopes to attract 250,000, draws from a broader cultural base and now features a related arts festival.

September 13, 2002|JENNIFER MENA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Ana expects more than 250,000 people to attend its fiesta to commemorate independence for Latin American nations. Organizers hope the crowd drawn downtown to the weekend-long event will be even more diverse than last year's.

And for the first time, in an event linked to the Fiestas de las Americas, artists in the downtown Artists Village, many of whom are not Latino, will bring their work outdoors and supplement their displays with music, food and craft booths, said Norma Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Gallery of Fine Art. Many of the displays will feature Latino-oriented art, she said.

In the effort to diversify the heavily immigrant crowd usually drawn to the event, the Downtown Business Assn. handed event preparation to All Access Entertainment, association President Arturo Lomeli said. Previously, promoters booked acts, such as regional Mexican bands, that didn't attract diverse crowds.

Lomeli, a downtown dentist, said he has worked with All Access to get culturally significant acts at the outdoor fair, including ballet folklorico and other regional Mexican dancers.

"We are just taking little baby steps in order to attract a wider variety of people," Lomeli said. "We want people to see more than a run-of-the-mill norteno band."

The city helped by sending out 9,000 invitations to people who have visited the Artists Village.

Peter Bellas, All Access vice president of marketing, who also organizes Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles for Cinco de Mayo, said the Santa Ana festivities will include more carnival rides than before, new acts such as a magic troupe, and singers on the Billboard magazine charts.

"They want people to get a taste of Latin America, and they want people to think, 'Hey, this is great, I'm going to come back during the year,' " Bellas said.

Previously, the annual event, now in its 14th year, was named Fiestas Patrias to refer to Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16. Last year, the event was renamed in consideration of all countries in the Americas, many of which celebrate their independence in mid-September, and to honor the United States and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Fiesta events will cover the blocks generally between 1st and 5th streets and between French Street and Broadway.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante will be among those opening the event this afternoon.

Hours for the related Artists Village event are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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