HHM: Tri-City Latino Festival attracts new players
Tennis drew hundreds of Hispanics and others ready to try their strokes at the 2022 Tri-City Latino Festival.
On a warm Saturday in mid-September the area around the Columbus (Ga.) Civic Center was the site of a parade, music, dancing and an array of activities with a Latino flair. And, tennis!
More than 500 players and would-be players visited the Net Generation tennis staffed by local volunteers from the Columbus Regional Tennis Association (CORTA), along with staff members from USTA Southern.
Following a two-hour long parade in the morning, the tennis crew of at least 10 set up two 36’ court and two tents. Then, out came the foam balls and short racquets for any takers.
The goal was to get people of Hispanic heritage to get going with tennis.
“It was a very special event. The percentage of Hispanic people at this event was higher than most where I have work,” said Allan Jensen, USTA Southern Tennis Service Representative, Hispanic Outreach and Net Generation. “We loved to see families and people in traditional dress like large skirts hitting balls.” One observer recounted people from Peru, Venezuela, Panama and Mexico attended.
Asked if Spanish was the predominant language spoken on the court, Jensen replied, “Oh, yes. Ninety percent. Probably more.”
Julio Gonzalez volunteers at CORTA, heading up Diversity, Equality & Inclusion. He chatted about his experience at the festival, displaying his enthusiasm at what it means in the community.
“I’m talking 5,000 or 10,000 people at the festival. The level of energy and activity was amazing. One father said the event was very good for his daughter and how it reached out to young people in the Hispanic community.
“This event was just one of the many activities CORTA sponsors. We are working to start a Facebook group for Latinas. We concentrate our efforts at the Frank D. Chester Recreation Center because it’s near Fort Benning. That allows us to reach out to the many Hispanic families that live near the base.”
Also in attendance was Hanane Toumi, USTA Southern Tennis Service Representative, Parks & Recreation.