Saturday’s impromptu Peace, Love and Unity rally brought about 150 people to the Josh Davis Plaza in downtown Perry, with Latinos and Anglos gathering in a show of solidarity and positivity in the Perry community.
The rally was organized in response to Thursday’s cancellation of the annual ¡Viva Perry! Latino Festival. Hispanics United for Perry (HUP), longtime sponsors of the festival, said this year’s event was cancelled out of respect for murder-victim Mollie Tibbetts and concern for festival-goers’ safety.
HUP President Rosa Gonzalez and rally organizer T. J. Maylum welcomed the people to the plaza. Gonzalez assured the crowd the festival would return better than ever. Maylum said Perry celebrates the strength of its racial and ethnic diversity.
“I’m looking forward to the rescheduled Latino Festival,” said Perry Mayor John Andorf.
Carrying their signs and placards, the crowd moved from the plaza on Second Street to Caboose Park on First Avenue, where several sets of traditional and modern dancers performed.
The local dancers prepare all year for the Latino Festival, including their La Danza de los Viejitos or the Dance of the Old Men, a folk dance with roots in the western Mexico state of Michoacán.
The Latino Festival is the primary fundraiser for HUP, with proceeds supporting scholarships for graduating Perry High School seniors and continuing education. The rally gave HUP a chance to make good on fundraising efforts that were harmed by the cancellation.
The ¡Viva Perry! Latino Festival has been a regular feature of Perry’s social and cultural life since 1993. The HUP-sponsored event was originally held on or around Sept. 16 in order to mark Mexican Independence Day.
Officers of the Perry Police Department were on hand. No disruptions marred the rally.