Thursday, January 29, 2004

Fest plans to reclaim 'Cinco'

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NORWOOD - Dismayed by the use of Cinco de Mayo as an excuse for drunken melees, two Hispanic businessmen this week unveiled plans for aLatino festival May 1-2 at Coney Island.

The event, to be called Cincy-Cinco, would be a benefit for charities in Greater Cincinnati. The organizer will be Mike Smith of Music Event Management, operator of Cincinnati's Tall Stacks festival.

Smith said he envisions Cincy-Cinco becoming an annual event and eventually expanding into the Riverbend Music Center as one of the Midwest's biggest Latino music events.

This year, the festival's offerings will include bands, children's games, a soccer-maze competition, ethnic food, cooking demonstrations, dance lessons and salsa contests, including "Salsa of the CEOs," a competition for the heads of Cincinnati companies.

The event was conceived by Neil Comber, a retired Procter & Gamble marketing executive, and Alfonso Cornejo, president of AC & Consulting Associates and vice president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati.

Both men are of Mexican descent.

Cornejo said he has been dismayed by the negative news associated with Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating the country's 1862 defeat of French invaders. Last year, a so-called Cinco de Mayo party near the University of Cincinnati spun out of control, with drunken revelers overturning cars and trying to burn a couch in the street.

"This 'go out and drink, drink, drink' is, in my opinion, awful," Cornejo said during a presentation Tuesday to the Hispanic Chamber. "None of the kids there were Hispanic."

Cornejo said he registered the name Cincy-Cinco two years ago but began planning the festival in earnest about four months ago, when he heard rumors that a beer manufacturer wanted to sponsor its own Cinco event in Cincinnati.

"I would hate for a beer company to make money with my culture and my traditions," Cornejo said.

Organizers want the event to attract people of all ethnicities and ages. Cornejo said the timing is ideal, with Hispanics now the largest minority group in the United States. Membership in Greater Cincinnati's Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has increased 240 percent in two years, he said.

To attract sponsors for Cincy-Cinco, Cornejo and Comber have made presentations to Procter & Gamble, Cintas, Chiquita Brands Inc. and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

The festival's first-year budget is projected at $200,000. Admission is likely to be $10 for adults and $3 for children. Su Casa Hispanic Ministry in Carthage, the main conduit for aid to immigrants in Cincinnati, would be the major beneficiary.

As profits grow, other Hispanic-oriented charities will be eligible to receive money.


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