Sabor del Northside, an annual event held recently at Castillo Park, 1200 Quitman St., and organized by the Northside Community, was first the idea of eight residents who attended a national leadership training with Avenue CDC, an organization whose mission is to build homes and empower communities.
The festival began six years ago with a $2,000 grant and some big goals as stated by Jenifer Wagley, deputy director of Avenue – to celebrate the history and culture of the Northside community through food, music and performance; to be a gathering place that provides residents access to resources from health to workforce opportunities; and to be a place to gather and build community.
“The festival was created to help claim and name the history and culture of the neighborhood, and to invite others to come be a part of an already vibrant community,” said Wagley.
Wagley says that over the years the event has stayed true to its community roots, with a high attendance of 3,500 and the lowest due to weather at just 1,000 people. This year, about 2,500 attended.
“Through the years it has remained true to its purpose, but its significance has evolved,” she said. “It has become a gathering place of all things Northside. It hosts federal, state and local politicians at each gathering. It hosted the first gubernatorial candidate to ever visit the Northside community – in anyone’s recent memory. This visit signified a shift in both the level of civic engagement and the civic significance and strength of the Northside.”
New attendees learn about an historic neighborhood settled by railroad employees which has been home to generations of immigrants since. Wagley says the community is currently over 80 percent Latina with a rich Latin American culture.
“In the past decade the Northside has begun to show tremors of ‘gentrification’, or the displacement of the historic population,” she said. “The addition of the light rail heightened this threat and property values continue to escalate.”
So it’s important to organizers that the community’s culture is preserved, and celebrated at Sabor del Northside. The Sabor coordinating team begins discussing the festival in September each year.
This team is made up of resident leaders, non-profit partners and other agency representatives. Avenue provides the framework and administrative support for the festival and the leaders work to secure performers, sponsors and vendors.
New this year was BubbleFest, which was offered at the park by Vineyard Church in the Heights. One of the ministers at the church had connected with Avenue during the celebration of the building of Lindale Park at St. Albans Episcopal Church.
“Vineyard saw it as an opportunity to share a fun resource with the Heights’ closest neighbor,” said Wagley.
Coming off the success of this year’s event, Wagley said that Avenue is nearing the completion of the first comprehensive planning process with another nearby community, Northline.
“After the success in the Near Northside, Avenue was invited to do the same type of work in [Northline],” said Wagley. “This process represents over 1,000 community residents coming to the table to share their hopes and dreams for the future of the community.”