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Annual celebration of Latino culture kicks off Friday

STERLING – Fiesta Days, a free, two-weekend celebration of the Twin Cities' Latino heritage and culture, and of Mexican Independence Day, begins this week.

The fun begins at 5 p.m. Friday with registration for a Selena lip sync, singing and dance contest that beings at 6 p.m. at the Grandon Civic Center in Central Park downtown.

Gift basket prizes will be given for first through third place. Music will be provided by DJ Dom.

A Movie in the Park presentation of "Selena," a biography of the late Tejano singer, follows at 7 p.m.

The Taste of Fiesta committee will be selling candy, pop and popcorn, as well as this year's Taste of Fiesta T-shirts, and Dairy Mart Plus will be selling tacos.

Saturday is Taste of Fiesta Day, from noon to 8 p.m., also in the park.

More than 30 booths with activities and community resources for children and their families will be available. Representatives from agencies such as Head Start, 4Cs, and Sinnissippi Centers, and local businesses will be on hand.

In addition, the GPA Center for Youth will host a dunk tank, with police and principals as the dunkees, as well as bounce houses, face painting, balloon animals and a kids craft area, all starting at noon.

Sterling Mayor Skip Lee and Rock Falls Mayor Bill Wescott will present the opening ceremony at 1 p.m., Folklorico dance troops Ay Jalisco and Grupo Alegria will perform around 1:30 p.m.

For the squealers out there, there's a grito contest at 4 p.m. Those who win the shouting contest will get food coupons from local establishments.

Four local bands are set to perform: Space Bandits from 4 to 5, La Herencia from 5 to 6, Hitz City at 7 and Grupo Feliz at 8 p.m.

Throughout the day, food will be available from vendors Sanchez, Dairy Mart Plus, Papa Tom's BBQ & Catering, El Jacalito and Brito's Burritos.

There's an after-party in the banquet building behind Dairy Mart Plus, 312 16th Ave. from 9 p.m. to midnight, where Grupo Feliz will continue to perform. Beer, wine and other beverages will be sold. As an added plus, the building serves as a gallery for local Latino artist Victor Montañez's vibrant creations.

Admission to all of Saturday's events is free.

Find "Fiesta Days in Sterling-Rock Falls, IL" on Facebook or call Irene Lewis-Wimbley, 815-625-0013, ext. 119, for more information.

The annual Fiesta Days parade steps off the following Saturday, and it's not too late to join the lineup.

Organized by the Sauk Valley Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Business Leaders Committee, the theme is "Hispanic culture is alive." Parade entries are encouraged to incorporate the theme into their float, because it will be one of the criteria used in judging.

The parade starts in Sterling this year, at noon at the Grandon Civic Center, and will travel over the First Avenue Bridge into Rock Falls, take an immediate right at the base of the bridge and end at Rock Falls High School.

The deadline to enter is Tuesday. So far, four school bands – Sterling and Rock Falls highs, and Challand and Rock Falls middle schools – and more than 50 floats are signed up.

Go to or 815-625-2400 for parade registration forms and more information.

From 8 p.m. to midnight that night, there's a dance at the Latin American Social Club, 2708 W. Fourth St. in Sterling. Food and drinks will be available. Call the club at 815- 625-8290 for more information.

The celebration wraps up Sunday with a soccer tournament at 9 a.m. at Scheid Park. Bring lawn chairs and cheer on the jugadores de fútbol.

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