‘Unite the city of St. George’: Festival de Juan brings multicultral mix of food, music this weekend

ST. GEORGE — There’s a party for the whole familia in Vernon Worthen Park on Saturday night, and everyone is invited. 

File photo of cumbia group Sonora Tropica performing during the third annual Festival de Juan held in the Town Square Park in 2019. The event is back this weekend at Vernon Worthen Park, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

After a pandemic-delayed hiatus, the multicultural Festival de Juan, presented by St. George News’ Canyon Media partner Juan 106 FM, is back this weekend in St. George with food, music and other entertainment. The fourth version of the free event takes place from 5 -10 p.m. Saturday at Vernon Worthen Park.

Juan 106 FM morning host Pedro Magdiel Lopez, who started the event in 2017, said the event helps people see that the food and fun of the Latino community doesn’t mean just one culture.

“From the beginning, when I have this crazy idea to gather as a community, the idea was to show the Latino culture … that there’s people from different nationalities,” Magdiel said. “I mean, there’s not only Mexicans like myself, but there is a lot of people from Central America, South America, who even though we share the language, we have different cultures.”

And those cultures that can enjoy the event go beyond the local Latino community, as can be attested to the number of popular Mexican, Peruvian and Salvadorian restaurants in the St. George community that will be represented at the festival. 

In a file photo, Pedro Magdiel Lopez (center) is joined by fellow Juan FM employees during the 2018 Festival de Juan, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“You don’t have to speak Spanish. The idea is to unite the cultures,” Magdiel said. “We want to show our culture, our traditions and just be able to share with everybody without paying attention to color or skin or language or cultural background. We just want to unite the city of St. George.”

The Festival de Juan, which has been usually held in the spring, was called a popular event by many in St. George, but like many things, the pandemic got in the way.

The 2020 event was canceled, and Magdiel said it was important to make sure attendees could feel safe when the outdoor event returned. 

“We wanted to wait a little bit just to make sure that this situation with the COVID-19 pandemic was going to kind of like go down and we were going to be able to gather as a community on the park without any issues,” Magdiel said.

Few things unite cultures more than food, and Magdiel said there will be plenty – including the opportunity to have “chipping” samples before partaking in main plates. This will include pupusas, as well as samples from El Salvador and Central America. And though it may not be Tuesday, there will be all kinds of tacos with several different types of meat.

File photo of children playing in an inflatable bounce house at the 2018 Festival de Juan, St. George, Utah, April 28, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

For the kids, there will be several bounce houses, games and attractions offered.

As diverse as the food is, Juan 106 FM is a “musica” station. The sampling of music will be just as diverse. 

The big attraction will be La Banda Vallarta Show, which, in the 1990s, pioneered the “La Quebradita” dance style – a fusion of techno and Folklorico music styles. In the Latino community, La Banda Vallarta Show is a big thing. For non-Latino audiences, think if Backstreet Boys or Boys II Men were coming to play St. George.

Festival de Juan will actually be the start of the technobanda’s 2021 national tour, going on to Las Vegas and Phoenix and beyond. 

“It’s a big, big band,” Magdiel said. “They were super big back in the ’90s. It was a revolution among the Latino community.”

At the same time, Magdiel made a point to say there’s several other bands and performers that will be spreading their sounds, including several local bands from St. George and Mesquite.

“We’re going to have these great bands,” Magdiel said. “They are local bands that are barely starting, but hopefully they can make it big.”

Event details

  • What: Fourth “Festival de Juan”
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 23, 5-10 p.m.
  • Where: Vernon Worthen Park, 300 S. 400 E., St. George.
  • Cost: Free admission. Food and other concessions are available for purchase from vendors.

Additional information: Visit the station’s streaming website or its Facebook page.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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