HoLa Festival brings culture, food and fun to Knoxville

Thousands of visitors spent the weekend at the 16th annual HoLa Festival in Market Square. The event, hosted by Hola Hora Latina, was created to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by demonstrating art and cultural traditions.

An estimated 20,000 people spent their weekend at this year’s Hola Festival in downtown Knoxville’s Market Square. Hola Hora Latina has hosted this event for the past 16 years in celebration of Hispanic Heritage month, which runs from Sep. 15 to Oct. 15 each year.

Hola Hora Latina is East Tennessee’s oldest grassroots non-profit Latino organization. The goal of the organization is to promote unity amongst the Knoxville community and to educate by demonstrating global art and cultural traditions.

“I think it’s important to expose [my son] to the variety of cultures,” said Deedra Bejarano as her toddler son, Mathias, snacked on Columbian street food and spoke of the Aztec dancers.

Visitors enjoyed informational and activity booths along with street food vendors from various Latina countries such as Cuba, Argentina, Columbia and many more. The main stage on the square was constantly occupied by singers, dancers and other performers throughout the day as festival-goers danced to the music.

For the past two years, the festival was separated into two days, compared to the previous one day event.

James Webster and his Argentinian wife, Lilian Webster, met and married in Argentina. They are now offering catering services with authentic Argentinian cuisine. They open up a booth every year at the festival to share their love for Argentina culture through their food.

“After ten years of coming here, the two days instead of the one is definitely different, but I think it could be beneficial,” Webster said.

Most Knoxvillians felt that the importance of this festival is to expose the city to other cultures and to diversify and integrate the Hispanic community with the rest of the community. They also seemed to have a shared opinion on the importance of the food.

“I think this churro is my favorite part of this festival,” said Knoxville native, Brett Hagenow. “It’s cool to see and taste all of the different foods from around the world.”

Featured image by Katy Hill

Edited by Taylor Owens

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Assistant Arts and Culture editor, Katy Hill, is new to the journalism world. She began as an Exercise Science major before transferring to UT her junior year. After taking a media writing elective, she quickly found that she loved writing and switched to a Public Relations major. Her passion for blogging and local culture inspired her to begin her journey at Tennessee Journalist. Within her first year, she went from a 175 student completing a project to an assistant editor. She hopes to one day travel the world with her future pugs as a travel and food writer. When Katy is not writing, you can find her watching Food Network, playing soccer, or sitting at a local coffee shop.