By Wendy Gragg

Killeen Daily Herald

From Puerto Rican rice dishes to Mexican crooners, several Killeen schools will celebrate everything Hispanic on Saturday.

Clifton Park Elementary Schools annual and always popular Hispanic Heritage celebration has gone to new heights this year. It has expanded into a daylong event Saturday and is now a joint effort between Clifton Park, Pershing Park, Peebles and Oveta Culp Hobby elementary schools.

Ada Martinez, bilingual parent liaison at Clifton Park, said the celebrations growth has been gratifying.

Its very neat. It just shows the interest, she said. I have people call me in the summer and say, Are you doing it this year?

The celebration, organized by the five schools Spanish bilingual programs, uses music, song, dance, art and food to offer a taste of a wealth of Latin American cultures and countries.

Students, parents and teachers will take center stage, performing classic songs and dances of their culture. Alexis Farias, 6, a favorite of the celebration, will return to the microphone this year.

New to the celebration this year are members of the 4th Infantry Division band, who will be playing music from different countries.

There will also be food for sampling, courtesy of the bilingual programs parents. Dishes may include arroz con gandules from Puerto Rico, gorditas, enchiladas and more from countries such as Panama, Ecuador and Mexico.

Martinez said, as always, the event is an excellent opportunity for the children to be exposed to the traditions of their own culture and learn about other cultures as well. The expanded celebration this year is also a good way for Hispanic families across the school district to network, she said.

Some of them come here not knowing anybody, she said. Then they become best of friends and can help each other out.

Josie Mendez, bilingual parent liaison at Oveta Culp Hobby, said shes excited about Hobby joining the other schools in the Hispanic Heritage celebration.

Were just really excited to have all these nationalities involved in one big event because our cultures are so rich, she said.

Mendez said the get-together is good for the bilingual children, so they know that there are plenty of other children like them in the school district.

Mendez hopes families from across KISD, bilingual or not, will come out for the celebration. She said the group effort for cultural awareness could have positive ramifications even beyond Hispanics.

We can improve the relationships between all of us, not just the bilingual community, she said.

Contact Wendy Gragg at

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