Salsa music permeated the hot, dry air Friday evening as neighbors gathered to dance, taste spicy tacos and cool their thirst with soda or beer - but all for a good cause. The church of Our Lady of Guadalupe was beginning its spring festival.

"You cannot hear this band and not want to dance," said the Rev. Patrick Carley, parish pastor.The Salt Lake musical group, Salsa Brava, kicked off the event, and the festivities will continue from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Besides tacos, beer and soda, the festival also touts hamburgers and other standard American fare, a plethora of games for children, a sewing club quilt raffle, refreshment booths and pony rides.

The church is located at 715 W. 300 North.

The Rev. Carley said the spring festival is being held to raise money to reduce church debt on a recently constructed center for religious study, replace the church roof, and to plan and develop activities for area children, such as a summer camp and computer-training courses.

"We have an at-risk population," he said. "We feel very much the need for intervention."

William "Willie" Price, a parishioner at Our Lady, said the money raised will help keep kids off the streets and out of gangs. Price, who is running for the Salt Lake School Board, said money from the festival will be used in part to help him direct a church basketball camp for boys and girls at Jackson Elementary School in late July.

"When I was a kid, we all looked after each other," said Price. "We need to get back to that. If the lady down the street spanked me, and I went home and told, I'd get another spanking just for acting up."

Price said he has worked with many gang members in the community around the church and elsewhere. He said many of those in gangs are looking for a sense of belonging that they could find through the church or church-sponsored events.

The Rev. Carley said without such yearly events as the spring festival, his small parish would be unable to fund events to deal with at-risk youths or other community-focused programs.

"We don't have wealthy folk," he said. "Everybody in the parish is helping out in some way."

Our Lady of Guadalupe is named in honor of the patron saint of Mexico. Tradition says the Virgin Mary appeared three times on Tepeyac hill to an Aztec peasant called Juan Diego. Mary told Juan to visit the Catholic bishop in Mexico City and tell him to build a church on the site where she manifested herself. After some reluctance, the bishop was convinced of Juan's sincerity and a church was constructed.