The creation of the festival all started with a dream. A dream to unite all walks of life for one unique purpose. A phone call from Harold “Lefty” Encarnacion, from Millie’s International Market, had Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson thinking, “What now? What does he want me to do? What’s going on?” Mimi, questions in mind, goes to his store and the first thing she says is, “Okay Lefty. What now…what’s going on?” Lefty says, “I have an idea. Calm down.” Mimi shakes her head and says, “Ok…alright…what?” Smiling, Lefty says, “I want to do a Latin Festival.” Shockingly, Mimi says, “What?” Lefty repeated, “I want to do a Latin Festival.” Mimi begins to laugh. “Why are you laughing at me?” Lefty says. “I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.” Mimi stated. Confused, Lefty says, “Why?” Looking lefty in the eye, Mimi says jokingly, “Because I’ve wanted to do one. I could never get it right to get it going.” Harmoniously, Mimi and Lefty laughed and gave each other a high-five. “Let’s get it going.” Lefty declared. “You know what Lefty, let’s change the name. Why not call it a Tri-City Latino Festival, instead of a Latin Festival. You know we are always talking about diversity in our community and our area is known for being a Tri-City community, so why not change the name?” Mimi mentioned. That day the dream was born; two friends that shared the same dream, but didn’t know it.
This dream had to become a reality, so Lefty brought on Carlos Huertas, a dedicated and hard-working man who shared a similar dream. Together, they created a board of members to begin discussing the details of the event. Unfortunately, problems arose and Mimi became terribly ill. For four months, Mimi would be out of the picture and not much was being accomplished; the board faded out of existence. However Lefty was persistent.
He sought out Mimi once more and said, “Mimi, what about the festival?” Mimi agreed. “Well, I’m ready.” She says. “You guys stopped.” Another group was formed, but different from the earlier group. Once everything was running successfully, the group consulted with Mayor Teresa Tomlinson to give them some advice about putting on the event. The most important advice the mayor gave was to be careful with the non-profit. So, when the group went to file, there information was filed incorrectly as a profit instead of a non-profit group. Once again, the event was cancelled and the dream became unreal.
Keeping hope alive, Lefty and Mimi turned back to the drawing board to re-evaluate their approach.
A new member was brought into the group, Roberto “Tito” Aron, to contribute his talents and expertise. With the new group together, they had to figure out how to get a non-profit, but the process was too long. Together they all decided to temporarily use another organizations non-profit until they were able to establish their own. One organization came to mind, The Panamanian Association of Columbus, GA. Determined, Lefty met with the president Luis Hunte, and the president met with his group. The Panamanian Association was thrilled and willing to work with making the event successful. A month later, Lefty received the phone call that made their dream a reality. Due to The Panamanian Association allowing them to use their non-profit, the festival was in full force.
By the grace of God, great advice, and learning experiences, The Tri-City Latino Festival was able to become the reality that we all wanted. Recognition and praise go to all the contributed in some way. The board wants to recognize and thank the original group: Carlos Huertas, Daisy Lynton, Al Albino, Carolyn Hugley, Edgar Champaign, Isaiah Hugley, Lisa Arroyo, Al Mcknight, Madeleine Davis, Cristina Richards, Tanya Bachelor, Lion Wyath, and Perdo Rodriguez. As well as the current members associated with the Latin Festival: Daisy Lynton, Lisa Arroyo, Luis Hunte, Jaime De Costa, Gladiola, Unzueta, Martin Orozco, and Juliet Stephens. A very special thank you goes out to their advisor, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. A helping of appreciation and respect goes to: Isaiah Hugley, Lisa Goodwin, Betsy Covington, Carmen Cavessa, Cecil Cheves, Millie Del Toro, Art Thomason, Brian Giffin, Robin Wallace, Robbie Foster, Ross Horner, Milton Mariani, and Sammy Eugenio, Julio Llanos – Columbus State University (Members of CSU Diversity Council), Arlo Wesby. Everyone contributed in some aspect and made this dream become a reality. Most importantly, the event partners, our Tri-City Community: Columbus GA and Phenix City AL deserve some recognition. Without them, the event wouldn’t be able to be a Tri-City Festival.
Thank you all for your help and great ideas. This is our Tri-City Latino Festival, our dream.
Tri- City Latino Festival 2019 Familia:
Harold Lefty Encarnacion –Past Chair
Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson- Chair
Elica Ojeda – Co-Chair
Romy Almanza – Secretary
Victor Ortega- Board Member
Christian Ortiz - Marketing/Social Media Management
Julissa Santoyo- Finance
Natalie Bouyett- Community Outreach