Hundreds of Inland Empire residents gathered around Fleming Park in Colton on Saturday October 11 and engaged in some heavy tamale eating, while listening to oldies, rock, hip-hop music and enjoying a classic lowrider car and bike show.
The tamale festival had participation from over 50 vendors and registered over 100 cars, motorcycles, and pedal bikes for the show that took over five blocks of the area that surrounds the park.
Finding inspiration from the International Tamale Festival that takes place in Indio every year, Colton Parks and Recreation commissioner Albert Zamora, with the help of other prominent community members decided to organize the event to raise funds to support diabetes research through Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), as well as to help pay for the treatment for San Bernardino resident Lalena Maquinalez, who suffers from both diabetes and Celiac disorder (an illness that affects the small intestine).
The setting worked perfect for the organizers, considering it’s close proximity to the city’s downtown area. Within the opening hours of the event, hundreds were sitting in the seat’s of the park’s theatre listening to bands like Mexico 68’ and artists like Rocky Padilla. Children were provided with gifts donated by the organizers and other city leaders. Councilmember David Toro and District 4 candidate Richard Prieto were there to show their support.
Zamora, who arrived at 6:30 a.m. to set up for the event, said he was in awe when he saw the turnout for the event. He attributed the event’s success to the volunteers and vendors who made it possible.
“All the hard work that members like Monibee (Henley), Funk Cancer, and so many other sponsors, made this a great committee,” he said. “Sure I had the idea, but it was their support that made this possible.”
Maquinalez was at the event, alongside her mother, Gloria. The 11-year-old was presented with an award from Zamora for her inspiration and the other things she does. Despite her health concerns, Lalena is excelling in school. She was awarded the Presidents Award for Academic Excellence in 2013 and is currently reading at an 8th grade level.
According to her mother, her long term goals are to become valedictorian when she graduates high school and study engineering at UC Berkeley. In her spare time Lalena sings and plays the piano, is a member of the pep-squad at her school, and plays softball.
“She keeps me very busy,” Gloria said about her daughters efforts in an interview from March. “She’s become stronger as a result of her experiences I believe. It’s hard for adults to go through this and for her to take it so well demonstrates that she is disciplined and hardworking.”
The tamale competition that was organized comprised of a panel of judges deciding on two award winners–one for best tamale and best commercial tamale–based on the the taste, texture (wet or soft), spiciness, and amount of meat. The Light of the World churches of Victorville and Redlands respectively were the recipients of the awards.
Michelle Padilla, a teacher at the Norton Space and Aeronautics Academy in San Bernardino and member of the Light of World Victorville chapter, said it takes a tremendous amount of work to participate in a festival, but iterated that the experience is a fun one.
“We spent about 68 hours cooking and preparing the tamales,” she said. “This was a really a good experience coming out here.”
Zamora believes the festival could be as big as Indio’s and can possibly be the next premier event to be based in the Inland Empire.
“People are already asking about next year,” Zamora said. “Maybe we can turn this into a mini Coachella Festival.
Residents took to facebook to comment on the event’s success.
“This event was not only very family oriented, but it was also very well organized,” said Colton resident Paulina Salamanca. “The vendors were all polite, plus I saw school mates. The car show was bigger than I expected and the food was awesome! Can’t wait for next year!