This year, the celebration is partnering with The Buddy Program for a family-friendly day of dance.

“Bring your kids, bring your friends, bring your grandparents, bring mom and dad,” said Kathryn Sansone, The Buddy Program’s development director.

The event was founded in 2008 to promote cultural diversity in Basalt. Photographer Pete McBride, then a member of Town Council, shaped the idea together with an advisory group of local Latino leaders. For years, it continued alongside Basalt’s River Days Festival.

In 2021, thanks to The Arts Campus at Willits (TACAW) and Mezcla Socials, the event returned like a spark following the isolation of 2020. This builds upon dedicated work by the Basalt Chamber of Commerce to revive the work in 2019. New this year, The Buddy Program has organized arts, crafts and dance classes for kids (and a piñata) while bachata and salsa lessons are taught in TACAW’s theater beginning at 1 p.m.

During the afternoon, everyone is invited to a barefoot social dance on the lawn at TACAW. Carbondale’s Señor Taco Show will serve food while El Bajón Churro Truck and Sundae Ice Cream cover dessert.

The cost? Free for classes, activities and a sample of ice cream.

All throughout, representatives of The Buddy Program will be standing by to sign people up for their service, pairing adult mentors with local kids seeking a role model and friend. The Buddy Program is currently 30 big buddies short of matching the demand in the Valley. 

Later in the night, there will be one last salsa lesson in the theater at 8 p.m. Then, the dancing continues from 9 p.m. to midnight with DJ River Rhythm and Orquesta La Brava alternating music.

“It doesn’t matter about languages, or experience, or history. Whatever walk of life you’re coming from, dance can bring us together,” advised Claudia Pawl, founder of Mezcla Socials along with her husband, Brian. The couple was inspired by a decades-long tradition of weekly salsa nights at Jimmy’s, a former restaurant in Aspen. “It’s all about connection,” Pawl continued. “Keep an open mind, and don’t be too hard on yourself.”

Claudia and Brian will teach bachata, a style that originated in the Dominican Republic, at 1 p.m. Fafa Blabogee and Amina Masiwa, who’s dancing Pawl described as “sensual yet regal and mesmerizing,” teach at 2 p.m. And Erika and Edwin Rivera, internationally famous in salsa circles, will teach at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Mezcla Socials regularly hosts salsa and bachata lessons at TACAW on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and a practice night at Love Rocks in Basalt on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.