The small, rural borough of Arendtsville, Pa., known for its National Apple Harvest Festival each fall and home to fewer than 1,000 people, is the last place you might go for diversity. But its thriving apple industry has drawn a large Latino population of migrant workers, and Trinity Lutheran Church has wasted no time reaching out. Every August, the church, with an average Sunday attendance of 85, sponsors a multicultural fiesta.
“We wanted to have a free community event that would bring the church into a deeper relationship with our neighbors,” explains Robert Blezard, the church’s former pastor who helped initiate the fiesta.
Now in its sixth year, the completely free fiesta includes tamales and other Mexican foods, in addition to burgers, hot dogs and snow cones. A carnival-like atmosphere reigns with games, crafts, train rides, a bounce house, and of course a piñata. Entertainment includes bluegrass and mariachi music and Mexican folk dancing.
While the church doesn’t yet have the resources to offer Spanish services, it does offer English as a Second Language classes weekly. The classes and the fiesta serve as a conduit between the Latino and Caucasian populations.
“It’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot of dedicated volunteers to pull it off,” says Blezard. “When it happens, and the community responds, it’s really a joy.”\