Sunday's Quinceañera Fair will be a family affair

For a milestone like a quinceañera, youth-centered non-profit Friends First knows the kind of pressure young girls and their families are under. "We started the Quinceañera Fair program because we were being told that quinceañera was becoming the stereotype of prom, and we wanted to associate it with responsibility," says Friends First Executive Director Elycia Cook.

The organization's mission is to connect with youth through programs that prepare them for adulthood in a positive way. Sunday's fourth annual Quinceañera Fair will not only offer parents and kids a place to learn more about these programs, but also help them find the right dress, music, caterers and all the trimmings needed for the coming-of-age celebration.

The event is much like a bridal fair, because so much planning goes into a girl's quinceañera. "In the Latino tradition, a quinceañera cost more than a wedding," Cook says, "with some families spending from $10,000 to $30,000."

The free fair starts at 3 p.m. this Sunday, March 25, at Red & Jerry's, 1840 West Oxford Avenue. Parents can check out vendors offering cakes, DJs, dresses, tuxedo and limo rentals while kids enjoy the Red & Jerry's arcade and live mariachi music.

Last year's event attracted more than 1,400 girls and their families, Cook says, and Friends First hopes to reach more than 2,000 this year. Beyond the Quinceañera Fair, Friends First also offers school assembly and outreach programs to more than ninety schools in the metro area, touching on topics ranging from sex education to bullying, drinking and drug abuse prevention, and other high-risk behaviors that youth can be exposed to.

Money raised from vendor booth rental at Sunday's fair will go toward those Friends First education programs. For more information, visit the non-profit's website.

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