On the heels of the African American and Polish festivals in July, the Birmingham Ethnic Festival earlier this month and the German American Festival after that, the Toledo area will present yet another cultural event this weekend with the Mexican American Festival at the Perrysburg Community Center.
Originally called the South of the Border Festival, the event began more than 20 years ago as a celebration of Mexican heritage and as a fund-raiser for the community center. The festival featured cultural performances, entertainers, song and dance and ethnic cuisine. Now, after years of dwindling attendance, organizers are making changes in hopes that the event again can be profitable.
“We’ve been fighting to break even for the last five years,” said Jason Craig, director of operations at the Perrsyburg Community Center. “It was previously our largest fund-raiser. There were times we took in between $30,000 and $50,000.”
The Perrysburg Community Center is located at 12282 Jefferson St. in Perrysburg. Admission is free on Friday, but there are costs for food and activities.
Tickets to Saturday’s concert are $20 and available at the community center. Parking is available at Perrysburg High School where concert-goers can catch a shuttle from the school to the venue.
Attendance has dropped from several thousand people in recent years, to as few as 800 people in 2012.
“We had to do something to bring back the fund-raising,” Craig said.
That’s where hip-hop comes in. Organizers have booked more than a dozen rappers and hip-hop entertainers, including acts from the 1990s and early 2000s, to play the second day of the festival, in an attempt to draw larger crowds, which in turn would mean more cash. Proceeds are used to help fund the center.
“Hip-hop is popular. The groups we have coming in are from the ’80s and ’90s and everybody still loves then,” Craig said. “It just makes sense.”
The headliner for Saturday’s concert, which runs from noon to 11 p.m. is rapper Coolio, famous for his hits “Gangsta’s Paradise” from the 1995 film Dangerous Minds, and 1994’s “Fantastic Voyage.” Several other big name acts were anticipated, but last-minute negotiations appear to have faltered for Bushwick Bill and individual members of Naughty by Nature and Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony.
Several local acts will perform 15 to 20 minute sets earlier in the show.
Friday’s festival will resemble pasts events, with Mexican music and American covers by local groups, including Paragon, Grupo Dezeo, Xplozivo and Los Hermanos Villegas. For $7 children can head to the Kids Zone, with inflatables and other fun activities. Food vendors will be on site all weekend, selling everything from festival staples, like hot dogs and barbecue, to traditional Latin fare. The festivities run from 5 to 11 p.m.
The hip-hop concert is open to everyone, but is geared more toward adults, Craig said.
“It‘s going to be a bunch of older people who get to pretend they’re back in high school for the day,” he said. “It‘s going to be a good time.”
Contact RoNeisha Mullen firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.