Stockbridge to hold Bridgefest/Hispanifest celebrations

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Stockbridge officials are getting ready to host a popular annual event that will have a new twist this year.

The sixth annual Bridgefest celebration is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 24, 1-8 p.m. in downtown Stockbridge. It will take place on the lawn across from City Hall and stretch around under the bridge as well. East Atlanta Road and Ward Street will be closed that day for vendors to locate their booths there.

Crowds lined the streets in Stockbridge at a previous Bridgefest event. This year’s event will be held Saturday, September 24. Special photo

“It’s been a very successful event,” said Econuel Ingram, events coordinator at Merle Manders Conference Center and one of the organizers of Bridgefest along with Cie Cie McGhee, the city’s events manager. “Last year we were rained out. That’s why we are planning on coming back bigger and better this year.”

As of last week more than 20 vendors had signed up, and Ingram said the goal is to have 40 by the Sept. 20 signup deadline. In addition to arts and crafts, there will be a number of food selections, from Cuban and Mexican to soul food and country cooking. Many of the vendors have come year after year, Ingram said. The kids area will be expanded this year as well.

“It’s always a pleasure to create events that can bring together a diverse community,” said McGhee. “Special events like Bridgefest allow a glimpse into the heart of the city of Stockbridge. We get the opportunity to strengthen community support and make memories that last a lifetime.”

A new wrinkle for 2016 is the first-ever Hispanifest, taking place simultaneously at the same location. It is being done in conjunction with September’s designation as Hispanic Heritage Month across the United States.

Rocio Camacho, a local businesswoman, is the driving force behind Hispanifest. She is the head of the Georgia Hispanic Alliance, which was formed recently in part to help organize the event.

“She brought the Hispanic community together to get this going,” said Ingram.

For several years Camacho has come to the City Council to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month, and this year city officials decided to take it a step further. She and a group of about 30 people have worked to organize what they hope will eventually be a stand-alone festival featuring traditional Latino food vendors, arts and crafts, souvenirs, the work of local artists, and traditional dancing from different Latin American countries.

“I’m excited about it, very excited,” she said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking because it’s the first year and we want to make good impression, but I’m sure it will turn into something nice so we can do it every year.”