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Feast of the 3 Kings

January 13, 2019

Rome’s 24th annual Fiesta of the Three Kings brought a huge crowd to the Civic Center on Jackson Hill. Christians, largely in the Latino world, typically celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings — also known as the Feast of the Epiphany — on the 12th day after Christmas, however the Rome celebration was held a few days after that.

The feast celebrates the biblical story of the Three Wise Men who followed the star to worship the baby Jesus.

Janet Baltzer of Angel Express started the event in 1995 for about two dozen Latino children and their parents at South Broad United Methodist Church. “I was working with Jorge Romero on the Human Relations Commission and I wanted to do something for the Hispanic children, so he helped me invite the children since I didn’t any contact with the Hispanic community,” Baltzer said. “It’s grown and I work with school counselors and family advocates to identify the families to be invited.”

Leticia Benavides said the celebration is very important for people in her community.

“This is very special,” Benavides said. “We’re trying to introduce them to the culture of where we are coming from.”

Youngsters danced in native costumes prior to dinner, which was cooked and donated by a number of Hispanic restaurants in the community. Benavides said she doesn’t have any trouble finding the volunteers to dance.

“I have contact with parents in our Hispanic community so we work together,” she said.

Jacqueline Martinez, Amar Segura, Emireth Morillon, Milagros Fonseca, Daniela Escalante-Berduro, Jenifer Segura, Evelin Segura and Yarimir Martinez participated in several dance numbers that drew spontaneous, loud applause from the crowd that filled the Civic Center. Jacqueline Martinez was also featured as a solo singer during the celebration.

Ladies who participate in the Women’s Outreach program at Highland Rivers actually served the meals. Volunteers from Rome High and Alpha Delta Kappa sorority also helped feed close to 200 youngsters.

After the meal, the youngsters took turns hacking away at two huge pinatas until candy was sent flying. The scramble for the goodies inside the pinatas was arguably the highlight of the event.

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