By KEVIN BRADY
Fancy a party with music, games, great food and contests?
Mark your calendar for March 29, when the “All Things Salsa” festival is set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Good Samaritan Mission, 14920 Balm Wimauma Road, Wimauma.
All proceeds from the event go to the Mission, which emphasizes education and helping the poor break the cycle of poverty.
“There is no entrance fee, and the food is priced very reasonably,” said Anne Madden, a volunteer at Good Samaritan. “It’s all about family and bringing the community together. There is something for everyone at the festival.”
Among the local restaurants featured at the event will be Ana’s Restaurant, a Wimauma staple that features “amazing food,” Madden said, as well as Pita Kabob of Apollo Beach: “Wonderful food and always made with fresh ingredients,” Madden said.
Organizers hope to attract 2,000 people for the festival, one of the Mission’s major annual fundraisers.
Founded in 1984, the Good Samaritan Mission emphasizes education and opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.
“The Mission offers the folks they serve an opportunity to take a step forward,” Madden said. “They offer people the opportunity to improve their lives and not just eat for the day.”
Along with the salsa, the festival includes traditional American cuisine, authentic Mexican food, music and free games for children.
Besides games, special activities for children include a puppet theater and the Home Depot Children’s Booth, where children can build their own toy to take home at no charge.
Crafts created by Mission volunteers will be available for sale at La Casita, and Good Samaritan Mission tours and information will be available throughout the day.
The festival will also feature a recipe contest, where visitors sample and vote on their favorite salsa.
More than 50 vendors are expected for the event as well as local businesses and crafts vendors.
Several local nonprofit groups and government agencies will be offering information about the services they provide.
Attendance at the festival is free. Organizers are requesting a $5 donation per vehicle for parking on Mission property.
The Mission started offering short classes last February for anyone who wanted to use the group’s food bank. The classes cover domestic violence, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and gang violence, among other issues.
“If we are really going to go to the core issue of what these people are going through and effectively help them to better their lives, then we need to address those issues,” said William Cruz Jr., the Mission’s executive director.
Students earn a token for each class they attend. Each token entitles the user to a grocery bag they can use to shop at the Mission food bank. The more classes a student takes, the more tokens they earn and the more bags they can fill.
The food bank is also open to those who don’t want to take the classes. They are, however, required to spend some time volunteering at the Mission before they can use the food bank.
More than 300 people have graduated from the classes since they began in earnest 13 months ago. A typical week now sees 40 to 50 students taking classes at the Mission.
“It’s all about giving people an opportunity to better themselves and give back to the community,” said Cruz.
For more information and directions, visit the festival web site, www.familysalsafestival.com, email email@example.com or call 813-634-7136.