Flowdancer Whitney Watts performing at Quinta Mazatlan’s Illumina Fest in McAllen on Friday. Matt Wilson | mwilson@themonitor.com

The city of McAllen kicked off two days of events with its inaugural Illumina Fest on Friday evening.

Illumina Fest is an art and music celebration that pays homage to the various ways that cultures around the world observe the holidays.

“We really wanted to celebrate all the multicultural celebrations across the world,” Colleen Hook, director of Quinta Mazatlan, said. “There is Christmas. There is Three Kings Day. There is Hanukkah. There is Kwanzaa. There is the Chinese New Year. The Valley is such a melting pot, so multicultural, we wanted Illumina Fest to be for all.”

Guests are able to travel a half-a-mile trail illuminated by over 2,000 luminarias. There are art installations that represent each of the seven continents, as well as interpretive naturalists with information about each continent.

“We’re very much about education, about the conservation of our native flora and fauna,” Hook said. “Really, you start in your own backyard, and if everybody does that, that works to protect the world. We thought it would be fun to walk the half-a-mile trail at Quinta Mazatlan.

“Protecting the world sounds huge, but if you just start in your own backyard, that’s something that everyone can do at all ages.”

The event features a number of food and drink vendors, activities for children as well as performances from local artists and school groups.

Larry Bloom of Cedar Rapids, Iowa said that he regularly visits Quinta Mazatlan, but he really enjoyed this new event.

“A group of us came out together from one of our parks. I love it,” Bloom said. “The lights are impressive. The artists out here are fantastic. We’ve been out here several times, but not for this event. Just for tours and bird watching. I’ll be doing this again.”

Tanya Bautista of McAllen was visiting Quinta Mazatlan for the first time. She said that she came out for the lights and the culture.

“I think it’s magical,” Bautista said. “I was passing by and I saw this guy playing music with some mesmerizing lights, and it really got me to feel very … like in that loving moment of nature.”

Bautista said that she appreciated the exposure to multicultural customs from around the world.

“I feel like this is great. We need more culture here,” Bautista said. “I feel like some people just focus on the fact that we’re more Hispanic here. The fact that they’re integrating more than one (continent), it’s just amazing. You get to see an aspect from different places, and they even integrate who we are. It’s just beautiful.”

Illumina Fest will continue Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. Admission is $5 at the gate, and children under 2 get in free. Tickets can also be purchased online at the Quinta Mazatlan website.