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Free Salsa Fest promises food, fun, music as Good Samaritan Mission goes mobile

Published on: March 1, 2018


Fancy a little live music, salsa and other local fare this weekend? Head over to Salsa Fest on Saturday, March , at Riverview’s South Bay Church for a taste of Latin food and music. Featuring over 50 vendors, the festival, one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for Good Samaritan Mission (GSM), will have food trucks, live entertainment, a Kids Zone, and a salsa-tasting contest.

Among the food vendors on tap for the festival are A-Lotta Empanada, S&S Tacos, Whymama’s, Joshua’s Bistro, SubZero Snowballs and more. There will also be a salsa-tasting contest with local entrants vying for the title of best salsa. Arts and crafts booths, featuring everything from jewelry to sewing, will also mark the event, joined by informational tables from local nonprofits and agencies.

“I reached out to Joy FM (a local Christian radio station), local media and hit up all the social media,” said festival coordinator Kacey Folger. “It’s in a central location for the first time so we are hoping for a good turnout.”

A youth soccer event, Soccer Shots, is also taking place at the same time next door to the festival, a blessing as far as Folger is concerned. “We will have volunteers going over there handing out invitations to everyone to come to the festival.”

A Christian charity with more than 30 years in South County, this is the first year Salsa Fest won’t be held at the Mission’s Wimauma campus, part of a wider strategy to make GSM more mobile. The mission board decided to sell its Wimauma property last year. A check for $1.2 million buys the 10.5-acre plot on Balm Wimauma Road and its three buildings, a large kitchen, offices, playground and storage sheds with 32,935 square feet of air-conditioned space. The property has been on the market since last fall.

The Salsa Festival will feature more than 50 vendors and exhibitors with music and a children’s zone.

“We are getting about one or two inquiries a week,” said Bill Cruz Jr., who runs the mission with his wife Theresa. Century 21’s Jim Graf, 813-658-1476, is handling the sale of the property.

While they await a buyer, the mission is pushing ahead with a mobile strategy to bring classes to its target audience, Latin farmworkers and the working poor, and, in a relatively new outreach, senior citizens.

A $10,000 grant from The Interfaith Council of Sun City Center helped Cruz buy an 18-foot trailer last month. The GSM is seeking a large pickup truck — at least a half ton — to tow the trailer.

Once retrofitting is complete — The American Heritage Girls of Brandon are currently installing shelving and painting the trailer — it will hit the road as a mobile food pantry with everything the mission needs for classes. It will bring classes to the migrant farmworker and senior population for whom transportation is often an issue.

“It’s a game-changer because we can reach more people than we are now,” Cruz said. “Transportation is a challenge for our target population, so the fact we are going to see them is a big plus.”

Classes are already running at Balm Baptist Church (greeting card manufacturing, three Bible studies, a cooking class and a job-search class) with Spanish classes currently held at the mission’s Wimauma campus to transition to the Wimauma Community Center. Classes for seniors at Aston Gardens and Bible study classes at Anna’s Restaurant in Wimauma are already well underway with English as a second language classes, a Bible class and informational self-help sessions soon moving to the Wimauma Community Church of God.

Good Samaritan emphasizes self-help, offering classes throughout the year in everything from basic healthcare to fire safety where students earn tokens for each class they take. Those tokens can be redeemed for food at the mission’s food bank throughout the year, although no one is ever turned away if they need food.

Salsa Fest is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, at South Bay Church, 13498 U.S. 301 S., Riverview. There is no entrance fee, and parking is free. For more information on the festival, call 813-240-4107, visit  or email

For more information on the mission or to volunteer, call 813-634-7136, email or visit