Harrisburg Hispanic heritage festival back in-person with music, food and vaccines

The Latino Hispanic American Community Center is celebrating its 11th annual Hispanic heritage festival Saturday in Harrisburg.

Hispanic Heritage Festival

A past Harrisburg Hispanic Heritage Festival. (LHACC/ WITF)

This story originally appeared on WITF.

The Latino Hispanic American Community Center is celebrating its 11th annual Hispanic heritage festival Saturday in Harrisburg. It is returning as an outdoor, in-person event with live music, dance performances and authentic foods from all over Latin America.

One new feature at the festival will be a COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

The center has been offering monthly vaccine clinics since May, but this will be the first time it will offer shots for children ages 12 and older, said Executive Director Gloria Merrick. Immunocompromised people who are eligible for boosters under FDA guidance will also be able to get shots at the clinic.

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“We think that it will also be an opportunity for kids who have started back to school. Parents are asking us if their youth can be vaccinated,” Merrick said.

There will be an information station set up outside LHACC with bilingual resources and staff to answer questions about the vaccine. The clinic itself will be located inside the community center on Derry Street.

“If they are present on (Saturday), between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., we will walk them in happily,” said Marc Migala, director of veteran care services at UPMC Central Pa.

Migala says Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available.

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“It’s not just having access to the vaccine, but being as accommodating as possible. The other part of that is being able to accommodate the language barriers,” Merrick said. “We’re hitting on a lot of the barriers by having this at the Latino center at the festival.”

The community center is also offering free flu shots for the first 100 people who arrive for the kickoff parade, which will feature flags from different Latin American countries.

Last year, the Latino Hispanic American Community Center held its Hispanic heritage festival in October as a drive-thru event at Harrisburg High School. Merrick says the community, as well as companies, were eager for its return. There will be more than 70 companies with a presence at the event this year.

“It’s our biggest turnout yet with companies in 10 years,” Merrick said. “There seems to be a thirst, a desire for companies and organizations to kind of get out and to meet the community and network.”

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 13th and Derry streets.

Those interested in getting vaccinated at the festival can sign up online at vaccine.upmc.com, or  can call UPMC directly.  Spanish-speaking individuals can call 1-833-660-2416 and then dial 1. English-speaking individuals may dial 1-844-876-2822. To learn more about the festival or get assistance signing up for a vaccine, people can also call LHACC at 717-232-8302.

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