Unity Fest celebrates 10 years

Glendale’s cultures collided on Sunday for the city’s 10th annual Unity Fest hosted by TV star Mario Lopez.

Hundreds of people packed Brand Boulevard as organizers put the many cultures of Glendale up for display through dance, art, music and, of course, food.

Mayor Laura Friedman called the annual event “the most colorful, the most vibrant and maybe one of the loudest street fairs that we have.”

Mario Lopez served as Unity Fest’s celebrity host for the second consecutive year.

“Being a proud Glendale resident, I really support and look forward to this festival celebrating community and also diversity and all the beautiful cultures — from Armenians to Mexicans to Koreans and so forth,” he said. “I think it’s just such a great melting pot.”

Homage was also paid to former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian, who succumbed to cancer Oct. 13.

In introducing her “Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca,” a Burbank dance company, Amy Navarrete dedicated the dance to Zarian, who was known as the “People’s Mayor.”

“Let’s give Larry a big hand and I know he’s watching us from above,” she said to the crowd. The boy and girl dancers, all of them 10 or younger, performed a dance influenced by the French, German and Polish immigrants of Nuevo León, Mexico, during World War II.

Navarrete said Zarian was her mentor and friend after her own father died when she was 9.

“I consider him one of my parents — One of my dads,” she said.

Navarrete — vice president of Americas United Bank in Glendale and president of the Glendale Latino Assn. — voluntarily teaches about 100 children and teens dances she’s performed since she was 6 years old.

“[Zarian] inspired me to work with the children and to continue to be proud of my heritage and who I am,” she said, adding that cultural performances ensure “that our kids continue to learn about their heritage, their culture and who they are.”

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