RACINE COUNTY — Citing rising fees, organizers of La Fiesta Mexicana have decided to part ways with Festival Park, host to an annual fiesta for nearly two decades.
Instead, this year’s festival will likely be held in mid-September at the Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Memorial Park — at a fraction of the price, according to organizer Yolanda Adams, president and executive officer of the Urban League of Racine and Kenosha.
“This could be where we have it from now on, depending on how things go this year,” said Adams, after receiving initial approval from the Joint Park Commission on Thursday.
For years, a Mexican festival had been organized by the Hispanic Business and Professionals Association. But after unexpected debt put an end to their annual events, Adams and other local nonprofit organizations stepped in last year to
continue the tradition under the name La Fiesta Mexicana. The event features music, food and cultural exhibits.
With little time to plan last year’s festivities, the group stuck with tradition and booked the longtime home of the former event at Festival Park, Adams said.
This year, however, Adams said she was told rates at Festival Park were increasing from $5,000 a day to $6,000 a day.
“We would have loved to have it there and give the money to the City of Racine,” Adams said. “It’s a beautiful park and we love it, but it’s above what we can afford right now.”
And so organizers began looking for a new location and, after plans to host the event at the Racine Zoo fell through, they shifted away from a lakeside locale and to the west.
Along with the added benefit of being closer to Interstate 94 to add convenience for festivalgoers from Milwaukee and Illinois, the joint park at 9614 Highway K also comes with a price tag about one-fifth that of Festival Park, Adams said.
Rik Edgar, executive director for the Racine Civic Centre, which includes Festival Park, 5 Fifth St., could not be reached for comment Friday.
At Thursday’s park commission meeting, members seemed excited about the prospect of bringing the festival to the park and voted unanimously to approve organizers’ proposal for the two-day event on Sept. 14 and 15.
Park representatives and festival organizers will now work on drafting a contract for the event. Adams said she would not say what price estimate she originally received from park representatives because final contract details still needed to be ironed out.
And the savings from switching venues, Adams said, will in part go to expanding the festival’s entertainment budget, and she expects to bring in at least one big act this year in addition to a number of local acts. Adams thinks that the change in entertainment and location will also lead to more attendees than last year’s festival, which drew about 1,800 people over two days.