CHICAGO (WLS) -- Manuel Medina remembers the first Fiesta del Sol taking place 46 years ago.
"When it first began, it was just a little festival," said Medina, board chair of the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council, which coordinates the event. "Still was enjoyable but now we have eight blocks. More and more different people. More organizations."
The festival, which opened Thursday, is now put together with the help of 200 volunteers. The largest Latino festival in the Midwest, Fiesta del Sol is expected to bring about 1.3 million participants to Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, which was recently named one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world by Forbes Magazine.
"We've been cool way before that title, but Fiesta del Sol is one of the reasons," said Sandra Ramirez, chair of Fiesta del Sol.
The summertime staple features a variety of entertainment, food, activities and community resources. The food and music are great, but Medina said the festival means so much more for a changing Pilsen community and Latinos around the city.
"I think it's very important for our community to see that we also as the Latino community are growing and developing, and I think this really paints the picture," he said.
Olga Garcia has a clothing stand at the fest that features handmade items. She agrees with Medina, saying it's sharing her Mexican culture with the world that matters most.
"I think there's something really beautiful that happens when people share cultures and ideas," she said.
For Fausto Castanera, whose family is setting up their Cantarito stand, the festival reminds him of home.
"This is the best festival in the country. All of Chicago is good, but here is the best," he said. "Here is Mexico. The festival is the same as my country."
And that's exactly what event planners want attendees to take away.
"We have a culture: A culture that's been here a long time, a culture that's developing, a culture that's contributing not only to the community but to the state and actually to the country," Medina said.
ABC7 is a proud sponsor of Fiesta del Sol. Visit the festival's website for more information.