Terri Rhodes stood in the shade at the Augusta Common on Saturday, watching people mill about and listening to the Latin music that blared from loudspeakers while the next band set up at the 21st annual Hispanic Festival.
She said she came in search of authentic Mexican food.
“I can’t find a good Hispanic restaurant anywhere,” she said.
Rhodes spent years in San Francisco and fell in love with the Mexican food there. She transferred to Augusta from Salt Lake City three years ago with the Veterans Health Administration and has been coming to the Hispanic Festival ever since.
“I’m bored in Augusta. There’s not much going on,” she said. “So when there’s something down here in the Common I usually come.”
This year’s festival featured more food vendors and children’s activities, along with a much larger Miss Latina pageant, said Rhonda Carey, the director of membership and recruitment for the Asociación Cultural Hispanoamericana, which organized the festival.
“I don’t know the exact number, but we have three times as many contestants,” she said.
Carey said her favorite part of the festival is the music.
“I love all the different groups that we have. We have groups from all different places: Panama, Puerto Rico, Mexico,” she said.
Many countries were represented at the festival, creating variety in the food, music and dance. The lineup included Aztec dancers, a mariachi band, and cha cha and merengue demonstrations.
Clyde Cooks has lived in Augusta for years, but this is the first year he’s come to the festival.
“I had softball practice this morning. A lot of the parents were talking about the festival downtown. I figured I’d go ahead and try it today,” said Cooks, who teaches at Sego Middle School.
He finished up a sausage dog and said the festival was very nice. He had not yet tried any of the Hispanic food.
“I’m going to get some, though,” he said.