MANATEE -- Cultures united through music, food and dancing on Saturday in Manatee County.
Families put their own cultures aside and came out to the 15th Annual Multicultural Festival hosted by the Farmworker Career Development Program at Manatee Technical Institute on Saturday.
Isabel Zepeda and her children were enjoying all the event had to offer.
"My girls like the music and dancing," Zepeda said in Spanish.
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Her sons, meanwhile, were all about the food, she added.
The mother of five, ages 6, 7, 9, 11 and 13, drove from Myakka City for a little diversity and distraction, she said.
"I came so they could get to know the culture, even though they may not like it," Zepeda said.
Zepeda got one of the free health screenings that were
offered by the Manatee County Health Department.
"I always take advantage of these events and the services they offer," Zepeda said.
Organizer Esperanza Gamboa joked Saturday that the event was celebrating it's quinceañera, the Hispanic tradition that celebrates a girl's 15th birthday and passage to womanhood.
This year's event was a culmination of cultures that included Columbia, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and India.
"The good thing is we unite the whole community and they have fun with their families while they learn," Gamboa said.
The event aims to build communication with the different communities and cultures, she added.
"It's a community event that everybody looks forward to and they start calling asking about it," Gamboa said.
Eduardo Contrearas said he got super-excited when he saw Gamboa in the distance. He hadn't seen her in 10 years.
"You come to these events and sometimes you see people and friends you hadn't seen in a while," Contrearas said in Spanish.
Contrearas, a Venezuelan native living in Bradenton, said he saw the multicultural event advertised in a magazine and decided to go.
"The music is very pretty and I see other cultures," Contrearas said. "There are a lot of other cultures I don't know about. I like events like this where I can come and learn about them."
As he watch the dancers on stage perform, he was enjoying a Mexican-style snow cone.
"I saw that the Mexicans prepare it different than in Venezuela, so I decided to try it," Contrearas said.
He was not disappointed.
Doug Wagner, director for adult, technical and career education for the Manatee School District, came out to support the event.
"What's nice is that they do bring out the community," Wagner said. "Events always have music, but what's nice about this event is that they have the dancing, too."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.