By Pamela Dozois
Despite the threat of inclement weather, more than 150 people showed up for the Fiesta de la Familia on May 26 at Ferrini Park in Los Alamos to help celebrate the town’s Hispanic community and heritage.
The event hosted by the Los Alamos Foundation began with the Ballet Juvenil Azteca performing folklorico dances in brightly colored traditional dress.
As the little ones lined up to begin the performance, a huge gust of wind blew down the plastic tarp that had been erected to protect the dancers from the rain, and the children scurried off the stage unharmed.
After six young men removed the fallen covering, the dancers re-entered the stage and put on a lively and colorful performance. Before they could complete all their scheduled dance routines, the weather took an ominous turn and the sky opened up with a temporary downpour, but the little troupe of dancers was not to be thwarted. They continued dancing through the rain.
The event also included kiosks offering popcorn, strawberry shortcake, face painting, and bounce houses. Daniella Lopez manned the booth for the North County Rape Crisis & Child Protection Center, which offers a lot of community education.
Attendees were offered the chance to guess how much money was in a loose change jar, with the winner taking home the contents.
Mel Ante, Doug Clark, Joel Diaz and Peter Diffenderfer busied themselves at the enormous barbecue pit in the back of the Los Alamos Men’s Club overseeing the barbecue chicken dinners. Each dinner was served with donated beans, rice, salad, and bread. Always a favorite, more than 200 dinners were sold.
With the rain still threatening, the event retired into the Men’s Club, where Mariachi Autlence performed to the delight of the audience.
The highlight of the day was the presentation of a donation check from the Los Alamos Theater Group to Monna Dingman, director of the Los Alamos Foundation who recently received the Volunteer of the Year Award for Youth from the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation.
“Gloria Diffenderfer, co-director of Summer in the Park, and I were blown away by the size of the donation from the Los Alamos Theater Group,” said Dingman. “When Carole Bloom first brought it up we were all thinking it might be a couple of hundred dollars, but it turned out to be way more than that! Over $3,700! We can’t thank them enough.”
The Los Alamos Theater Group (LATG) was formed last year by Jeffrey and Carole Bloom. This upstart theater company performs one-act radio plays written by Jeffrey Bloom, a well-known screenwriter who retired to Los Alamos from Los Angeles several years ago. Bloom is also the owner of Jeffrey Bloom Photography.
The Blooms and the LATG players performed their second production, “2 IN ONE,” on May 18-19 at the barn at Price Ranch in Los Alamos, dedicating the proceeds to the Summer in the Park program.
“This theatrical production was a community event, with a large assortment of valuable gifts generously contributed by the town’s merchants and townsfolk, which were given away during a prize drawing. It was thrilling to see the community come together for such a great cause. We live in a wonderful and generous little town,” said Carole Bloom, the play’s director.
“This is one of the finest examples I know of a community-driven program that benefits all of us,” 3rd District County Supervisor Joan Hartmann said of the Summer in the Park program and its community members.
In her speech at the event, Hartman noted that the program had begun as a small program seven years ago and has grown exponentially with 100 children and 18 high school and college students participating this year. Big kids teach and mentor the little kids and in turn gain job experience, earn money and support from adults.
“It is a really strong program,” Hartman said. “Children have something to do that’s fun and they don’t lose academic ground over the summer. It provides a safe environment for children with many fun and enriching activities children do not get in school, such as music, art, sports, and games, and it’s a real benefit for working families. Many new partners are signing on to this great effort to enhance the Summer in the Park Programs such as Hancock College, Santa Maria YMCA, and the Los Alamos Library. It is a circle of virtue.”
The Los Alamos Men Club also donated $7,000 to the program this year.
The party continued until the last barbecue chicken dinner was eaten or taken home to share with other family members. The accumulated proceeds from the day’s event go to the Summer in the Park program.
“I was really proud of my youth recreation counselors who were all volunteers at this event. They showed up at 9 a.m. and worked through the wind, the rain and the chill and stayed until we were done, with not a single complaint. They are terrific kids and I couldn’t do this event without them,” Dingman said.