SB Food Fest celebrates Mexican Independence Day

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Photo Ricardo Tomboc: Founder and President of We Are the Change Luis Ojeda started the Food Fest in downtown San Bernardino over two months ago in an effort to revitalize the downtown area.
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On Saturday night September 14, the San Bernardino We Are the Change organization had their weekly Food Fest event at Court Street Square.  This week the group celebrated Mexican Independence Day (which fell on September 16th); this week’s entertainment included a visit and message by Luis Medina from the Mexican Consulate, music, folklorico dancers, singers, Aztec dance demonstrations, and more. 

Photo Ricardo Tomboc: Dannyrey Benavente is the owner / operator of the Gourmet French Fry booth which has been in business for about 6 months. Dannyrey’s specialty is “Friteriles”, which translates to Fry Shop.

There were about 20 vendors including those selling various food items, nonprofits providing information, and others selling their merchandise.  At one point during the event, several hundred people came all at once to partake of the event’s activities.

said that “The weekly Food Fest events have been going on for over two months and are picking up more vendors and visitors each week.  Many of the vendors are from San Bernardino and are they’re participating because they are more committed to the cause (to revive the downtown area), and not so much because of the business aspect,” said Luis Ojeda, Founder and President of We Are the Change.  When asked why he took it upon himself to start the Food Fest, Ojeda replied, “Nobody was doing anything in the downtown area, and I wanted to do something positive in the city.”

Photo Ricardo Tomboc: Jose Chipez from the Downtown Fit Camp has attended the family-friendly event many times with his family.

The downtown area was a dark and desolate place, then it started to wake up when the We Are the Change Food Fest started their events.  Several attendees echoed the same sentiment when asked what they thought of the event.

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“They are doing a good job and it keeps getting better, let’s get the word out!  A dark area came back to life. This has become my Saturday night hangout!” said 2nd Ward Councilwoman Sandra Ibarra.

Jose Chipez from the Downtown Fit Camp has attended the event many times with his family and the event is definitely family oriented.

We Are the Change group has gone out of their way to make sure that all the vendors are educated and compliant with both City permitting processes and County Health Department’s codes and regulations. Ojeda said that he welcomes regular visits from the San Bernardino County Health Department to make sure that all the vendors are in compliance. We Are the Change provides security, sanitation, and logistical assistance for the event.  The organization also provides an entertainment coordinator that organizes talent, various shows, bands, singers, dancers, DJs, and in the future dance events. 

We Are the Change has board members and several volunteer coordinators.  Active in organizing the night’s event was Kim Knaus, board member, and Ivan Garoia, one of the volunteer coordinators.  The group is in the process of applying for nonprofit status, said Mr. Ojeda.  “We Are the Change” is the same group that goes out on Sundays to various neighborhoods in San Bernardino cleaning up streets, alleys, and reducing blight. 

Some of the community groups displaying a booth were the Neighborhood Association Council of San Bernardino, IEsurvive (aiding homeless and families), Los Gallos Boxing Academy, Boy Scouts of America, InformationStartsHere.com (homeowners’ resources), and PALA (AFL-CIO).

Dannyrey Benavente is the owner and operator of the Gourmet French Fry booth which has been in business for about 6 months.  Dannyrey’s specialty is “Friteriles”, which translates to Fry Shop in French.  Dannyrey said that “Friteriles” are the rage currently in Europe.  Dannyrey said that he worked for several restaurants and caterers and was born and raised in San Bernardino. 

Most of the entertainment booked for the Food Fest are from the local area.  Gloria Alcazar was one of the event’s singers preforming several Mexican favorites; Gloria works as a real estate broker in Ontario.  Carla Sanchez and Tony Carrera came to perform several fresh pop style Spanish songs and are both from Los Angeles.  Several students from the Rialto High School Ballet Folklorico also preformed. 

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