Palenke Arts Throws a Party Fifth annual arts festival this Sunday celebrates resiliency after COVID

The Palenke Arts Festival returns for its fifth year, bringing a multicultural mix of performing artists to Laguna Grande Park in Seaside | Provided

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By Kathryn McKenzie

An annual festival of music, art and culture in Seaside carries even more resonance this year, as a testament to resilience and grit in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The Palenke Arts Festival, now in its fifth year, takes place this Sunday, June 13, from 12 to 3 p.m. at Laguna Grande Park. The free multicultural celebration of the arts is organized by Palenke Arts, a multicultural arts center offering low-cost and free music, dance and art classes and concerts to the Seaside community.

The Arts Festival is co-sponsored by the City of Seaside, the Seaside Fire Department and the Visiting Nurse Association, which will host a free vaccine clinic offering Johnson & Johnson single shots.

Voices of Monterey Bay is a media sponsor of the event and is also collaborating with Palenke Arts to record the performances and feature them in an online popup event in the near future.

Palenke Arts executive director Juan Sánchez says that the arts festival is a celebration of determination in the face of adversity.

“Palenke Arts helped the community of Seaside rise up from a devastating year,” he wrote in an email. “The pandemic took lives, jobs, housing and joy from all of us, and yet, our small and mighty organization decided that we would survive.

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West African drum group Tam Tam Sacré will be part of the lineup for the Palenke Arts Festival this Sunday | Provided

“Using art, music, dance, resilience, creativity and the support of many (funders, community partners, staff and volunteers) we managed to produce eight virtual concerts, host 700 private piano classes via Zoom, learn four different dance choreographies and record three music videos … and on Sunday, we are having a celebration of that resilient spirit.”

The grassroots organization takes its name from palenque, the Spanish word for platform or arena, and its goal is to build a better community through the arts.

The festival is a testament to the mix and melding of cultures that are part of the Seaside scene. Sánchez notes that there will be several different performances highlighting African American culture, including West African drumming by Senegalese artist Abdoulaye Diallo, Mozambican singer-songwriter Jeremias Zunguze, gospel artist John Nash, hip hop dance teacher Quianna Summerhill and Afro-Brazilian group SambaDá.

The award-winning SambaDá, a crowd favorite, is based in the rich musical traditions of Brazil but also references salsa and cumbia, and blends them playfully with funk and reggae beats.

Also featured will be the Palenke Arts student ensembles, which includes the Bilingual Youth Chorus, Hip Hop dancers, Jazz Workshop, and West African drum and dance group Tam Tam Sacré, with a special appearance by members of the Monterey Peninsula Gospel Community Choir directed by Nash and a blessing ceremony by the Aztec dance group Yaocuauhtli Danza Cultural.

Taco trucks, arts and crafts vendors, art demonstrations and kids’ art activities are all part of the celebration. Attendees can bring blankets and low-cut lawn chairs to enjoy the day. Entrance is free, but donations to benefit Palenke Arts’ multicultural arts classes and workshops will be graciously accepted.

Due to COVID regulations by the Monterey County Health Department , there will be limits to the venue capacity, and those who attend are asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

More information about Palenke Arts is available at palenkearts.com.

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Kathryn McKenzie

About Kathryn McKenzie

Kathryn McKenzie grew up in Santa Cruz, worked for the Monterey Herald for 10 years, and now freelances for a variety of publications and websites. She and husband Glenn Church are the co-authors of "Humbled: How California's Monterey Bay Escaped Industrial Ruin" (Vista Verde Publishing, 2020).