West Valley City • It’s a big weekend at Centennial Park.
Day one of WestFest kicked off Thursday night amidst the rhythmic guitar pounding of a rock cover band and the smell and sound of corn on the cob and fried pastries.
The festival, which runs through Sunday, is a celebration of the diverse cultures of West Valley City, Utah’s second most populous city and a majority minority community.
This is Penina White’s fifth year at WestFest. She is the owner of Anwhut One Stop Polynesian Shop, one of the festival’s stalls. Although White’s store has a brick and mortar location in neighboring Taylorsville, WestFest has always provided a prime opportunity to promote her store.
“It’s not just that. There’s just so much from every country you can think of,” she said, “and of course the food is a plus.”
White is Tongan; Your business partner is Samoan. They offer staples — like kukui necklaces — from various Polynesian and Micronesian islands.
Just like them, other vendors from Utah, Nevada, Arizona, the Pacific Islands and Latin America congregate in the park. A total of almost 60 vendors are represented with handicrafts, children’s face painting, jewellery, crystals, Polynesian fabrics and much more until Saturday.
“Last year was a bit rough because of COVID, and we still had some restrictions,” said WestFest co-chair Steve Vincent. “So let’s hope this year will be gangbusters.”
The carnival, which includes a small Ferris wheel, car rides for young children, a music express and a crazy cabin, takes place every night. Admission to the festival is free, but a day pass for carnival rides is $40.
Concepción Rodríguez brought her two children from Magna to enjoy Thursday night’s carnival.
“My favorite thing,” she said in Spanish, “is watching them have fun.”
But Rodríguez is also drawn to other offerings – cold drinks, shaved ice and ice cream, all refreshing on a hot day.
This was Rodríguez’s first visit to WestFest – and it made a great first impression. “It’s all very pretty and impressive,” she said. “I love it.”
The Movie in the Park also returned Thursday, showing Disney’s Encanto. New events like chicken nugget and donut eating contests have been added this year.
And reflecting West Valley City’s rich and diverse food scene, 26 food vendors offered food from around the world along with American classics.
“We have so many options. We all have favorites for carnival food,” said Vincent. “Corn dogs and hamburgers and fried bread…”
Selections also include Hawaiian-style chicken, Polynesian pineapple drinks, tacos, malasadas (Hawaiian donuts), Colombian dishes, and Texas Twister drinks served in boots.
Danny Piñeros, owner of Sabor Colombiano, made the switch to WestFest for the first time from the usual Murray location where he parks his food truck.
“It has been very good so far. There are a lot of nice people,” he said in Spanish. “We’re always looking for a family-friendly environment, and this is it.”
Colombian arepas stuffed with chicken, beef, chicken and mushrooms, chorizo or cheese are the most popular dishes, but there’s more at the truck. “We do Colombian fast food,” he said, “arepas, empanadas, salchipapas, Colombian-style hot dogs…”
Lydia Hunter and Logan Christiansen took a minute to decide which diner to visit next after eating Hawaiian-style chicken and kalua pork from the Vilovilo Hawaiian tent.
“It’s very good. I like the music. The bands are really good,” Christiansen said. “And the chicken was so good,” added Hunter.
Three bands with Beatles, Latin, Country and Folk played on one of the two stages every evening.
The other stage is dedicated to cultural entertainment with performances by various dance groups including belly dancing, Latin American and Pacific Islander performances. There’s also “Scale and Tails” (a reptilian show), a magician, and shows by the West Valley City Fire Department and Police Department’s K-9 unit.
The festival continues on Fridays from 5pm to 11pm and Saturdays from 11am to 11pm with fireworks at the end of the night. On Sunday, only the carnival remains open from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America Corps member and writes for The Salt Lake Tribune on the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Your donation of our RFA grant helps her write stories like this; Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.
https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/06/17/whats-westfest-this-year/ What’s on at WestFest this year? Something for practically every taste.