Standing: Jessie Lazo (l-r), Monica Cadwell, Kristin Cannon, Bridget Rogers,
Rissel Sanderson, Carmen Romero, Fabiola Hamdan, Stephanie Muñoz, Chiquita
Jackson, Sitting: Katherine Staplemann (l-r) ,Michelle Garcia, Ryan Estrella,
Dakota Sullivan
14th Annual El Día de los Niños
Celebration
Giving Community Support
people or families to come. But then we ended up with about 500 or more attendees. That was an eye-opener for us. We planned better. We
moved to different locations. But for the past 4-5 years, we’ve had it at the Goodman Community Center. It really allows people to visit the
center and to see the wonderful facility that they have and bring more Latino families to the center.”

On May 7th, the 14th Annual El Día de los Niños celebration will be held at the Goodman Community Center, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.. It’s a little slice of
Latin America brought to Madison.
“Latin American countries hold it on different dates, but most of them are at the end of April,” Hamdan said. “A group of us decided that we
should have this as new generations are coming up and the Latino population is growing fast. And sometimes as parents, we are so busy with
a lot of things that we may overlook this very important celebration. We wanted to pass it along to future generations and remind them how El
Día de los Niños is and how we celebrate it in some Latin American countries.”

For those four hours, the Goodman Community Center will be turned into a festival ground for the children — and some respite for the parents.
And the celebration must go on in spite of the real world stresses that many immigrant families are facing with the current American climate.
“Now this year, more than ever, with our immigrant communities and mostly the Latino community, it is very important for us to have a day
where we can forget about all of the problems and then dedicate that day to our children and celebrate with them and make them feel that they
are very important and they are really the future of the country,” Hamdan said. “That’s why we are really emphasizing the importance of the
celebration this year.”

The center of the celebration is Goodman’s gym where information booths and an entertainment stage will be set up.

“We partner with agencies that provide key resources to families,” Hamdan said. “That’s why we have, for example, programs like WIC and
Food Share. We have the Job Center providing a lot of information. We have over 50 agencies. Now the district attorney’s office is a new
partner. They are going to bring information because they are doing a lot of programs for Latino families.
This year, we’re going to have immigration attorneys to come and help us inform parents about questions they may have about immigration
status. We want to equip parents with tons of resources that maybe newcomers don’t know. And we want to have them meet one-to-one with
these agencies like MMSD, public health and human services.”

The entertainment is a blend of organized activities led by MMSD’s Play N Learn and area Latino performance groups that feature young
performers.

“We have Ballet Folklorico de Maria Diaz, Boliviamanta and Music Makers,” Hamdan said. “Every year, we have different groups. Even if the
kids don’t belong to these groups, that’s why we have the open stage and open mic. Kids can just step up on the stage and perform and really
share their artistic abilities with us. That’s been a really great thing to do. And at the same time, we have the Parade of Nations where we have
the parade with our different flags from Latin America. We do it at the end of the event. And everyone celebrates in a happy way seeing their
flags, seeing people from their own countries. It’s just a great feeling and celebration. People feel a lot of pride.”

Also sprinkled around the festival grounds are partner agencies providing services and play activities for the children.

“The Latino Academy for Workforce Development always provides food, including traditional foods like tamales,” Hamdan said. “We have fruit
and things like that. This year, we have the Latino Chamber of Commerce providing us with a photo booth. We have Life Touch doing IDs for the
kids. We have Animart bringing their live animals.”

The organizers also like to invite first responders to the event as a way for families and the safety professionals to get to know each other.

“MPD and MFD, the Dane County Sheriff’s Department and others are there to provide information and at the same time, share their time with
the families to give Latino families the message that they shouldn’t be scared of the police or the sheriffs because they are here to protect us,”
Hamdan emphasized. “Amigos en Azul has been really incredible year after year at this gathering.”

El Día de los Niños has become a community institution and a tradition that is handed down from generation to generation.

“We have amazing volunteers. We have over 100 volunteers show up every year to help out with this event,” Hamdan said. “A really nice
thing was I received a phone call from this young high school student,” Hamdan said. “He told me that he wanted to participate. My first thought
was that he wanted to volunteer. He said no, that when he was young, he was involved and now he and his group wanted to create balloon
animals. He remembered how much fun it was. And now they are teens and they want to provide something for the kids to do. He will soon be
graduating from high school and going to college. We are hoping that this new generation picks it up from us so that they can run it once we get
too tired to do it.”

Parking doesn’t seem to be an issue year after year as hundreds of families turn out for the celebration. Madison Kipp and St. Bernard’s are
always gracious in allowing people to park there and walk to the center. And the bike path runs right next to the Goodman Center, so families
can easily ride their bikes to the event or even walk along the path.

El Día de los Niños is for kids of all ages, from a few months old to 90-years-old. Just come with a smile on your face and be prepared to join in
the festivities.
By Jonathan Gramling

One of the beautiful things about America is how its
cultural landscape gets replenished as each successive
wave of immigrants comes to its shores. Just think what
our lives would be like with tacos, gyros, and even
pizza. How many celebrations would be absent from
American traditions were it not for immigrants? Life
would be pretty dull if it weren’t for St. Patrick’s Day or
Carnival/Mardi Gras.

Another hidden-gem celebration is El Día de los Niños or
Children’s Day. It is a beautiful Latin American tradition
where children — and their well-being — are the focus of
the day’s festivities. And local Latino immigrants brought
that celebration with them.

“We started very small,” said Fabiola Hamdan, the chair
of the festival committee. “We wanted it to be small. For
the first El Día de los Niños, we were planning for 50