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September 20, 2014

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Community groups promise biggest Cesar Chavez celebration ever

First Cesar Chavez Day Festival in North Las Vegas Saturday

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Michael PeƱa stars as the title character in Diego Luna’s Cesar Chavez.

In 2009, the Nevada Legislature approved a bill declaring March 31 Cesar Chavez Day in the state, joining other, mostly southwestern, states.

The pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies such a designation did not spring up immediately, however, and this year community organizers in Southern Nevada are planning the biggest Cesar Chavez celebration yet.

A handful of organizations have planned a trio of events starting today and running into the weekend that will honor the memory and values of the labor leader and civil rights activist.

The highlight is the first Cesar Chavez Day Festival, organized by the Hispanic Student Union at College of Southern of Nevada with the help of area high school Hispanic student unions and other community organizations.

The theme of the event is the Chavez quote, "The end of all education should be surely be service to others."

"We are not trying to teach too much of the history of Cesar Chavez, we are really trying to stress the values of Cesar Chavez. So, we are going to have a timeline, and each part of the timeline will show a value of Cesar Chavez: education, service, community, passion ... all these things," said Selena Torres, who spearheaded the event.

The festival will be at Craig Ranch Park in North Las Vegas from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will include food, a variety of bands and entertainment, and exhibits. Proceeds will go to the Latino Alliance Scholarship Fund at CSN. Eric Chavez, grandson of Cesar Chavez, will speak at noon.

On Friday, the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus is hosting the inaugural Cesar Chavez Day Dinner. Proceeds will benefit the caucus' scholarship fund,.

IF YOU GO

What: Cesar Chavez Day Dinner

When: 5:30-9 p.m. Friday

Where: East Las Vegas Community Center, 250 N. Eastern Ave.

Cost: $10 for students, $20 for general admission

There was a Cesar Chavez dinner in 2010, but the organization that sponsored the event no longer exists and there has not been an event in Southern Nevada since. The NAACP in Reno has held a Cesar Chavez Dinner for the past few years. State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who sponsored the bill for Cesar Chavez Day along with state Sen. Mo Denis, said they hope to hold the dinner every year moving forward.

"Now it's not just a day, it's not just a symbolic gesture, it's a whole weekend of activities. This is how we keep his legacy alive," Kihuen said.

"It's incumbent on us as a community to actually put together educational events and raise money for students that will continue that legacy."

The weekend of events came together in part because of individual efforts to spread awareness of Cesar Chavez Day and, the organizers said, thanks to a groundswell of Hispanic community involvement that has been steadily growing. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population of Nevada increased 44 percent.

Al Martinez, in conjunction with Robert Martinez of Latino Democratic Caucus, Mi Familia Vota and AFL-CIO Nevada, sponsored a private, free screening of the new biopic film directed by Diego Luna, "Cesar Chavez," tonight for area students. The event includes a panel discussion with members of Chavez's family.

"A lot of our younger generation don't know who Cesar Chavez is, and that is very sad," Ebeth Palafox of Mi Familia Vota said. "My grandfather marched with him when he worked in the fields in California, so it's very close to home ... It's something I want to share with our youth here in Las Vegas."

Other organizations participating in putting on events include Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Get Equal Nevada, Hispanics in Politics and Latin Chamber of Commerce. The group emphasized that Chavez led a worker's rights and civil rights movement that transcended any one race or ethnicity.

"I'm Salvadoran-American, my mom is from Hawaii," Torres said. "Cesar Chavez's blood doesn't relate to mine at all, but his experience and his struggles relate to mine. I think they relate to all of us. Cesar Chavez is not just a Mexican, he is an American as well."

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