Annual Good Neighbor Festival aims to bring community together

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Thousands of people filed through Martin Luther King Jr. Park Saturday for the annual Good Neighbor Festival.

The park was filled with about 60 resource booths and activities, including face painting, games and dancing.

The event aims to bring the Southeast Bakersfield community out to getting to know their neighbors.

“This community is also often stigmatized as being the crime community,” event chair Anastasia Lester said. “That this is the hood park, and you know what, people live here. Decent, good, hardworking people. This is their park. This is their home.”

Lavinea Brown moved to Bakersfield about three years ago with her kids, relying on events like this to meet new people.

“I like the fact that  they have different booths that tell you different information, that you get to know your community and you get to know like different stuff that is going on,” Brown said. “It’s very helpful. It helped me out a lot because I’m not from Bakersfield and when I came to the little events, I got to know a little more about the community.” 

Organizers recognized individuals who have done good for the community with what they call the “Hidden Hero” award.

“The Hidden Hero awards is an opportunity for us to really celebrate those youth and adults that serve this community that aren’t often given the love an acknowledgement for the work that they do,” Lester said. “Going above and beyond what their job title may be to serve this community, to make sure it’s safe and cared for.”

Jalay Hernandez, 17, was one of this year’s recipients. Hernandez spends her free time volunteering with various organization throughout the community.

“If one person in the family changes and then everybody else comes along and then we start making a difference,” Fanny Hernandez, Jalay’s mother, said. “Not just in our community, but in the blocks where you live at.” 

Organizers said this was the biggest the festival has been on the last 10 years.

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