Sherman Community Leaders came together Saturday at Lucy Kidd-Key Park to celebrate Mexican and Central and South American cultures with the annual Hispanic Culture Festival. The event, now in its 20th year, was organized by the Hispanic Heritage Council of Texoma and highlights the many aspects of Hispanic culture that are active within the local community.

Council Vice President Diana Salas said the event is usually held around Sept. 16, which commemorates Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain in the early 1800s. However, the event was moved back a week due to scheduling conflicts with the Sherman Arts Fest, she said.

“We just want the Hispanic community to come out and celebrate it and explore our cultures,” Salas said.

While the timing of the event is based on the Mexican holiday, Salas said the festival also explores other cultures, including those from El Salvador, Honduras and more. The festival highlighted these cultures with entertainment provided by a norteño musical group and mariachi band, and through vendors serving traditional Hispanic dishes.

For this year’s event, organizers changed the schedule for the traditionally morning event to the late afternoon in an attempt to mirror the success of Sherman’s Hot Summer Nights concert series. Organizer Henry Marroquin said the event usually did not hit its peak until later in the afternoon, which led organizers to schedule it later.

For this year’s event, organizers expected crowds of about 2,000. By later afternoon, crowds of several hundred had already arrived.

Among those participating in the event was Sherman Mayor David Plyler, who opened the event with a speech in both English and Spanish. Plyler said his pronunciation likely wasn’t perfect, and he paused a couple times in his speech, but he felt it was important to get his message across to everyone.

“I think it is important because there are some people here who do not speak English very well and it is important for them to feel welcome from a city standpoint,” Plyler said.

Plyler said he enjoys the fact that the longtime event brings out people of all cultures to celebrate with the local Hispanic community. He said it was similar to the reaction to the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration, which is also held on the grounds of the Sherman Municipal Building.

“I love it when we celebrate events like this and I can come up here and see people of all cultures come together,” Plyler said.

Police Chief Zachary Flores, Sherman’s first Hispanic chief, also spoke during the festival and encouraged a dialogue between the local Hispanic community and the police department. By reaching out to local community leaders and pastors, Flores said he wants to reinforce the message that the Sherman Police Department is here to protect the full community.

With the passing of Senate Bill 4 — a limitation on protections for undocumented immigrants by “sanctuary cities”— and recent action by the administration of President Donald Trump, Flores said he has been receiving questions about the department.

“I have gotten concerns about how we plan to enforce any of the administration’s actions,” he said, adding that any action will not change how the department does its job.