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Umani Festival comes to downtown Moses Lake

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | September 28, 2022 1:25 AM

MOSES LAKE — Two blocks of downtown Moses Lake were blocked off Saturday afternoon for food, music, classic cars and a general celebration of the area’s Hispanic culture during the Umani Festival.

“We have a huge Hispanic culture here,” said Derek Martinez, owner of The Favored Farmhouse. “So, I think to highlight that culture, I think that’s just awesome.”

The festival, which featured Mexican-style mariachi music by Mariachi Huenachi, Andean-style folk music by Hermanos de los Andes, and Cuban-style acoustic dance music by Seattle-area band SuperSones, is a new one, and was organized as a joint effort of Columbia Basin Allied Arts, the Moses Lake Creative District, the Downtown Moses Lake Association and custom auto shop and clothing EDUB C/S.

“We at the library had this idea about three years ago, but we didn’t have the means to pull it off,” said Connie Baulne, branch supervisor at the Moses Lake Public Library and a member of the creative district’s board of directors. “And it’s overdue. I mean, our community is really diverse, and it should be celebrated.”

“So why not throw a big party?” Baulne said.

Third Avenue between Beech and Division streets was blocked off between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday. The area was filled with businesses and nonprofits showing off their wares and services, lined with decked-out lowriders, and filled with people strolling around, looking at the cars, taking pictures and enjoying the music.

“I like lowriders,” said Giovanni DeLeon as he gently polished his 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.

DeLeon is a member of the car club Malditos — the gentlest translation is “the wicked ones” — one of several lowrider clubs in the Moses Lake area. He works and has a family, but he likes to gather with friends and fellow club members to work on cars and cruise on the weekends. That’s why a festival like Umani is important, he said, to give the region’s growing Hispanic population a chance to get together and show itself off.

“We’re just average Joes like everybody else, but on the weekends, we come out and play,” he said. “We go to (other lowrider shows) in Spokane, or Seattle or Yakima. But Moses Lake, you know, they don’t do lowriders as much.”

He explained that Hispanic culture is one aspect of diversity that events like the Umani Festival highlight.

“We want everybody to know that we’re a small little town but we got beautiful cars,” DeLeon added. “That way everybody knows that Moses Lake is no longer little. You know, it’s a big town.”

Carolina Juarez, an outreach specialist with OIC of Washington’s Moses Lake office, which serves Grant and Adams counties, said she was there at the Umani Festival to let people know about the services and assistance her organization, a nonprofit located in south-central Washington that helps the people in need get on their feet, offers. According to Juarez, OIC has a number of programs to help people who are behind on their utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, and can even help people with tuition payments and financial aid for college.

“There’s so much help out there,” Juarez said. “We try to do a lot of community events, and we’re always open to go out in the community and the counties that we serve.”

Martinez said he was impressed with the turnout and even the weather this year, and hopes this is just the beginning of something that will keep on growing.

“It looks like a great turnout so far, and you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day,” he said. “So here we go. Let’s go.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

The music group Mariachi Huenachi, a group of high school students from Wenatchee who play traditional Mexican music, perform in Sinkiuse Square in downtown Moses Lake as part of the Umani Festival, a celebration of Hispanic heritage held last Saturday.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Lowriders and tents lined Third Avenue, where businesses and nonprofits as varied as custom airbrush painter Eddy Velez from Othello and OIC Washington showed off their goods and services during the Umani Festival, a celebration of Hispanic culture, in downtown Moses Lake on Saturday.

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CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

A custom sign marking the Umani Festival. Events like the festival help recognize the contributions of Hispanic residents in Moses Lake and Grant County in general. Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 this year.

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