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Promo Products Are a Hit at Latin American Festival

For 22 years, Latinos of all ages have traveled across the region to attend the area’s largest Latino event, the Charlotte Latin American Festival. Organized by the Latin American Coalition, the festival is held at Symphony Park, an outdoor venue with ample space for music, vendors, sponsors, and the growing number of attendees. It’s the coalition’s biggest annual fundraiser, and allows the organization to continue offering free and affordable services such as ESL classes, advocacy programs, and immigration clinics to the city’s Hispanic population.

“We see about 20,000 people come through the day of the festival,” says Tony Arreaza, cultural events director at the Latin American Coalition. “We have a lot of space in the park and also utilize the parking lot for the growing crowds.”

The coalition strives to preserve the authenticity of the event, bringing in popular musicians from Spain, Columbia, Cuba, Mexico and Uruguay, this year with pop star Julieta Venegas and rock sensation No Te Va Gustar. In addition to musical performances, the festival offers authentic Latin American cuisine, a marketplace of local artisans, art demonstrations, dance performances children’s activities.

Every year, more corporations get involved with the festival, capitalizing on the popularity by setting up booths and selling their products and services. Representatives bring giveaways for the attendees, as they know people need a way to recall the sponsors. “Companies do a lot of promotions, throwing T-shirts from the stage into the crowd or handing them out as people walk by,” Arreaza says. “Tech items like iPads and iPhones are also big.”

The Latin American coalition also uses imprinted apparel, and designs an event shirt for the staff and volunteers so people can identify them if they have questions or need assistance.

“We use different forms of Hispanic media to get the word out to sponsors and attendees, and since we don’t have a budget for marketing, we do a lot of trading,” Arreaza says. “We’ll give the Hispanic newspaper the sponsorship benefits of setting up a booth and handing out promotional items at the event, and in turn, they give us ads.”

Now in its 23rd year, Arreaza is proud of the event’s growth and hopes it continues to gain momentum as people of other cultures and backgrounds learn more about their Latin community members. “I started out as a musician, trying to get a spot playing at this festival because I knew it’d lead to exposure,” he says. “Then one day I found myself helping with the music organization and band choices. Now, seven years after joining the coalition, here I am helping to organize the entire event. I would have never guessed.”

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