Set for June 7-10, Darlington’s annual Canoe Festival is quickly approaching and preparations are already well underway in the community. The Canoe Festival Representatives competition is one of those events that have been in the works for a while now.
This year’s candidates for the title of Canoe Festival Representative include the following Darlington High School students: juniors, Ilse Mendez and Ashley Carns and seniors, Michael Garcia and Asalia Diaz Ortega.
These students have been selling raffle tickets, which is how they will earn votes to become Darlington’s next Canoe Festival Representative. The announcement of who will win the title will take place on Friday, June 8 at 6 p.m. in the big top tent at the Darlington Festival Grounds.
Ilse Mendez is the 17-year-old daughter of Hector and Minerva Mendez and sister to Edgar. She is a junior and has participated in cross country, track, musicals and plays, LEAD, Spanish Club (current president), NHS, and the homework club. She has volunteered at the DEMS homework club, Cinco de Mayo and for Relay for Life, Can Clean Up and Run Across Wisconsin through cross Country.
She looks up to her brother, Edgar, because she thought it was very brave of him to join the National Guard. When he returned from his duties, and talked about what he had done, it made her appreciate what she has. She also credits her brother with pushing her to be involved in activities in school.
“He was the one that made me get into sports and be more involved in school. He really pushed me to do a lot of things.”
One of her favorite Canoe Fest memories was riding the Spider carnival ride with her friends as the fireworks were going off. She stated how it was a fun, magical moment.
For Ilse, the Canoe Fest is a way to keep a tradition alive. There is a true meaning to the fest and it brings everyone together.
“It brings a lot of people from the community and the surrounding communities. It is a great way for people to have fun and distract themselves from stress and work and do their own thing.”
Ashley Carns is the 16-year-old daughter of Randy and Elaine Carns and sister to Justin. She is a junior and would like to go to UW-Platteville or UW-Riverfalls to major in Agriculture Education or to become an Equine Chiropractor. She really enjoys being in FFA and educating the youth and has been around horses her whole life.
Along with FFA, Ashley is also involved in band, LEAD, forensics, Spanish Club, cheerleading, jazz band, color guard, the Equestrian Team, and the WHA team. She is also in a 4-H club.
She looks up to her mom a lot, who pushes her to be successful.
“She teaches me not to take the easy way out of things and to always challenge myself whether it is in school, band, FFA or outside school activities.”
She has always enjoyed the fireworks during Canoe Fest and being able to hang out with friends and have a great time.
Ashley believes Canoe Fest is important because other communities around the area don’t have anything like Canoe Fest.
“It is very unique to our community. We draw in people from Shullsburg, Belmont, Mineral Point so they can come and see how unique and special our community is and how we have pride in celebrating our traditions.”
Michael Garcia is the 17-year-old son of Caralina Garcia and Leonel Bello and brother to Elizabeth Bello. He is a senior this year and plans to attend UW-Whitewater in the fall, majoring in Communications.
Throughout his high school career, he has been involved in the spring play, musicals, forensics, cross country, track, Spanish Club, LEAD, and choir. He had volunteered for Relay for Life, Can Clean Up and Run Across Wisconsin, all through cross country. He has also volunteered at DEMS as a teachers aid for ESL students and at Cinco de Mayo.
He looks to his friends as role models because he feels they motivate him to be his best self.
“They are really good at everything and really supportive.”
Those friends are also a part of his favorite memory from the Canoe Fest. He commented that the first time he rode the Spider carnival ride with his friends when he was 10-years-old, he was terrified. It may have been a crazy ride but he had so much fun.
Michael considers the Canoe Fest to be one of the only times where a majority of the town gets together to celebrate something together.
“Everyone comes together to celebrate and they can relax and not worry about other things.”
Asalia Diaz Ortega
Asalia Diaz Ortega is the 18-year-old daughter of Anacelia Ortega and sister to Zulia Diaz. She is a senior at Darlington High School, graduating this year as the salutatorian and will be attending UW-Platteville majoring in Industrial Engineering, with the hopes to improve how efficiently things are built and created so there is let waste with materials.
She has been involved in College Club, Spanish Club, LEAD, NHS, and was a basketball manager. She has volunteered with the Wisconsin Leadership Seminar throughout Wisconsin and with A Night to Remember in Racine that provides a prom for students with autism and Down’s syndrome.
Asalia sees her mother as her greatest role model, sacrificing everything, her home and country, to support the family.
“She has always been there for me, mentally and financially. She is my support system.”
One of her favorite Canoe Fest memories when she was a younger and walked in the parade as part of the Girl Scouts.
Asalia believes the Canoe Fest is a place where everyone can unify and celebrate together.
“It is a place to have a good time, relax, have fun and eat some really good food.”