Heavy rain was no match for the more than 300 people who attended a 74th liberation celebration of the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to honor their heritage. The event was Saturday at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Copperas Cove.

“This is a very tight-knit community, and I am happy that everyone came out to celebrate CNMI and showing support to the veterans too,” said Father Patrick Ebner of the Holy Family Parish Catholic Church of Copperas Cove. “I will be more than happy to attend next year if the invitation is extended to me.”

The Northern Mariana Islands are a U.S. commonwealth that lies in the Pacific Ocean. Saipan, the largest island, is known for its sandy shores and mountainous landscapes.

This year’s celebration brought attendees and vendors from local communities and Texas cities including Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.

The celebration honored traditions through dance, music, food and the service members who paved the way.

Elleryjan Arriola, president of the CNMI and chairman of the Islan Marianas Inc., was overjoyed with the support given to the organization in this year’s celebration.

More than 10 donors, which included the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce, Navy Federal Credit Union and Papa John’s Pizza, made the event possible, he said.

This year’s event featured dancers dressed in indigenous costumes while dancing and singing in their native tongues. Some of the performers included the Inetnon Famagúon Guahan and Island Flowers.

“I am excited that people braved the rain to come and support us this year,” Arriola said. “There’s so much in store this evening and I cannot wait for everyone to see what takes place.”

The organization is poised to start giving back more to the community by helping to feed the homeless and assist with educational scholarships for those in need.

“We want to continue to perpetuate the culture, so that our kids who are not back home can experience and appreciate the culture here in the states,” said Laura Tenorio-Fejeran, community affairs director. “Our funds raised will go towards educational incentive, scholarships, and feeding the homeless. We want them to experience a sense of family and community when they walk into this event today.”

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