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Hispanics celebrate heritage tonight

Members of the local Hispanic community tonight will celebrate those who have excelled in their professions while maintaining their cultural roots.

The first annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration will run from 8 p.m. tonight until 1 a.m. Sunday at the Hilton Hotel, 255 S. West Temple.

Ana Maria Fereday, co-owner of the Hispanic Yellow Pages of Utah and founder of the event, said it will fill a need.

"We need to celebrate," Fereday said. "In the past, we didn't have an event to celebrate our Hispanic roots, our culture. Now, it's close to Columbus Day, a big day in South America, and we wanted to use the occasion to recognize a Hispanic business that is doing great in the community and a Hispanic professional who has been successful."

This month, the Hispanic Yellow Pages event is the first of at least two to celebrate Hispanic culture and achievements in Utah. On Oct. 29, the Utah Coalition of La Raza will hold its 12th annual Cesar Chavez Banquet and Awards dinner.

Josie Valdez, an award judge for tonight's event and assistant director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Utah district office, said events like these strengthen the overall community.

"It's always important to honor the contributions made by successful business owners and successful business professionals, whether they're minority or non-minority," Valdez said. "We're all working for a stronger economy in Utah, and this is an opportunity to lift the image of immigrants, newly arrived citizens, second- and third-generation citizens; to recognize that they bring value and professionalism to the businesses they represent."

About 10 businesses will be considered for recognition tonight, along with nearly that many business professionals, Fereday said. In addition to those two awards, Fereday said another will honor an individual for "showing respect to the community and the country, while keeping their Hispanic roots."

Minerva Ashby, the evening's event director, said the celebration is meaningful also because it encourages involvement and interest in and from the Hispanic community.

"We want to encourage businesses to grow," Ashby said. "We want them to be known in the community."

The Hispanic Heritage Celebration is open to the public. The cost to attend is $15. In addition to naming the Hispanic Business of the Year and the Hispanic Professional of the Year, the event will include an appearance by Miss Hispanidad 2004.