World Fiesta goes virtual with weeklong event aims to unite, bring hope to community during stress of pandemic
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Each year, Integrated Community hosts an annual event known as World Fiesta, and this year, despite being unable to hold an in-person event, World Fiesta will continue, providing some much needed relief from stressors surrounding COVID-19.
World Fiesta, now in its eighth year, will be a week-long virtual event beginning Monday, Sept. 21, and ending the following Friday. In past years, the event has taken place at the Steamboat Springs Community Center, providing an opportunity for local community members and immigrants to come together to share food, learn dances and meet each other.
“We thought about not having it this year because of COVID,” said Nelly Navarro, executive director of Integrated Community, “but ultimately, we decided that it was more important than ever to create a space to talk about diversity and how the community is changing. This is a wonderful opportunity to work toward our mission, which is integration.”
World Fiesta is being held this year in partnership with Steamboat Pilot & Today’s Indivisible reporting project that will focus on issues of diversity, equity and inclusivity in Routt County. The first installment of the series will publish Wednesday, Sept. 21, during the week of World Fiesta events.
Navarro said many more immigrants are moving to Steamboat Springs each year.
“Our immigrant community continues to grow as employers in the tourism, hospitality and construction industry bring in workers to fill the demand for labor,” she explained.
The virtual event, held mainly on Integrated Community’s Facebook page, will consist of three short videos per day, for a total of 15. Videos will be posted at 9 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. The videos will feature different dances from around the world, recipes, fun facts, interviews and collaborations with other local organizations.
“This is a way to unite us and take a few minutes each day to learn something new — a new recipe, dance, song or fun fact about another country,” said Integrated Community board member B Torres.
Educational videos will talk about the services that Integrated Community provides to their clients. Viewers will have the opportunity to learn a Peruvian dance, try a flan recipe from Mexico, hear immigrant stories and learn fun facts about other countries.
Renzo Walton, Integrated Community’s resource and referral coordinator, will be sharing a recipe for chicha morada, a beverage from his native Peru.
“It is made from the juice of purple corn,” he explained. “In my video, I will show you how to make it, and then I drink it.”
Hayley Berg, a local singer, will perform in Spanish. The high school Spanish teacher first started working with Integrated Community when she volunteered to help their clients learn English; she has also worked as one of their medical and parent-teacher conference interpreters.
“As a high school Spanish teacher, I think it is important to recognize the many cultures that live within the United States — a country that was created by immigrants from all over the world,” Berg said.
In her video, she will play the guitar and sing the song, “Paris,” by La Oreja de Van Gogh, with Mike Martinez also on guitar.
Since the videos will live on Integrated Community’s Facebook page, the community can view them either in real time or later on, as schedules allow. Videos will be either in English with Spanish subtitles or in Spanish with English subtitles.
“We hope these videos will further open people’s eyes to the diversity in our community and invite folks to broaden their horizons in a unique way,” Torres said. “Of course, the virtual events won’t compare to the fun and celebration of the in-person event, but I know we’ll never take this event for granted when we’re finally able to meet in person.”
Through a collaboration with Opera Steamboat, there will be two videos featuring opera singers Raquel Winnica-Young and Paulina Villareal, who will provide half-hour performances in Spanish.
“Music heals, especially when you’re far away from home,” Navarro pointed out. “This collaboration is a great tool that our clients can use, and we really hope to strengthen that connection with Opera Steamboat moving forward.”
The week-long fiesta will serve to remind immigrants of their home countries, which they cannot visit currently due to the global pandemic.
According to Navarro, COVID-19 highly impacted the immigrant community in Steamboat in more ways than one.
“At first, we saw fear,” she said. “People didn’t know if they would lose their jobs and be able to pay their rent or put food on the table. In many cases, that did happen and there was a huge language barrier with filling out paperwork for financial assistance and the challenge of navigating different systems. Education was another big part too — moving to remote learning was a challenge to many families with children at home.”
The organization went into overdrive providing resources, offering translation services, learning new software and working to ensure that no family was left behind. While a normal month brings in around 30 translation requests, Navarro said Integrated Community received 97 requests in April alone.
“My team was outstanding,” she said. “They worked so hard, often late into the night to try to get everything done. COVID has brought many challenges, but we have also learned so much.”
While this event is typically a fundraiser for the organization, with tickets selling for $10 and food selling for $1 to $5, the main focus, especially this year, is elsewhere.
“We are hoping to get some donations, but that’s not the goal of the event this year,” Navarro said. “We really just want to have this space for our clients to bring them hope and some fun during a stressful time.”
The community is encouraged to donate to the organization either through a link on Integrated Community’s website, which will re-direct to the nonprofit’s Colorado Gives page, through Venmo or PayPal. Donations will allow the organization to continue to provide valuable resources to the immigrant community in Routt County and will help continue the nonprofit’s work to integrate all communities together.
“I’m so impressed by the resilience of our clients,” Navarro added. “They are the essential workers on the front lines. They are truly the backbone of our country and economy, and they have given so much more to us than we can give to them.”
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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