‘To become one’: Return of Festival de Juan aims to unite Southern Utah community

ST. GEORGE — There is an expression that began in Spain and has become popular in Mexico over the last 100 years: Familia … donde la vida comienza y el amor nunca termina. Translated into English: Family … where life begins and love never ends. 

In a file photo, young and old were entertained at the Festival de Juan in St. George, Utah, Oct. 15, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

And it’s this sentiment of coming together as family that returns to St. George this Saturday, Oct. 14, with Festival de Juan. Organized by local radio station Juan 106 FM, this festival held at Vernon Worthen Park will feature an evening of Latino food, music, fun and games.

Other than the price of food from various vendors the festival is free, but the chance to bring the whole community together is priceless, said Pedro Magdiel Lopez, morning host of Juan 106 FM.

“This radio station is called ‘Juan,’ and a lot of people say, ‘One’ like if it’s the No. 1,” Lopez said. “Well, in reality, we want to become one as a community and be one in everything. This is a great chance that we have every year to become one.”

Like St. George News, Juan 106 FM is a part of Canyon Media. 

Suleyma Plancarte joins Lopez in hijinks on Juan’s morning show. Echoing her co-host, she said it is a genuine opportunity to bring people from all cultures in the community together as family. 

“It’s a great way to see your neighbors again, see your coworkers again, old friends,” Plancarte said. “It’s a place where the whole community can come together … and show up. It’s really beautiful to see that.”

Suleyama Plancarte and Pedro Magdiel Lopez of Juan 106 FM host the Festival de Juan in St. George, Utah, Oct. 15, 2022 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

This will be the seventh edition of the Festival de Juan, and Lopez describes himself as the “crazy person who started it” as a way to celebrate the variety of Hispanic culture and cuisine. But the festival has since expanded into an integration event for the whole community. He said about 800 came to the first festival in 2017. With the exception of a COVID-19 pandemic pause in 2020, the festival now draws thousands.

And then there’s the food.

“Our goal is to invite everyone that wants to experience what our culture is and to taste our culture as well. That’s one of the biggest things that brings us all together … food,” Plancarte said. “We really invite everybody who loves the Hispanic food, who loves to eat tacos.”

Don’t forget the Mexican corn, which has been rising in local popularity.

In a file photo, a vendor cooks up ears of Mexican street corn at the Festival de Juan, presented by Juan 106 FM, at Vernon Worthen Park, St. George, Utah, Oct. 23, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“Just that butter, the mayo, the cheese and the chili,” Plancarte added. “You can get even different flavors like hot Cheetos and Takis on your corn now. You can get it in a cup. So there’s different ways to eat this deliciousness. It’s so good.”

Accompanying the flavor will be the sounds of both international and local performers with headliner Banda Toro, who might be best known for their twists on Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” as “A Mi Mañera” and the Paper Lace 70’s hit “The Night Chicago Died” as “La Noche Que Murió Chicago.”

The music will be so exciting,” Lopez said.

The band was “super famous” in the ’90s, Plancarte added.

“A lot of people know them among the Latino community,” she said. “Them coming here is a big deal to us. Oh yeah, we’re super happy.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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