Almost 20,000 people are expected to gather at Franklin Covey Field this weekend to break a lot of things.

They will break stereotypes, cultural barriers and ignorance. Those attending the 3rd Annual Hispanic American Festival may even break a few drums, given the amount of noise being generated by a wide variety of musical acts on Friday's opening night.Festival organizers have many lofty aspirations for the event, none of which slip by attendees.

"Sometimes we package ourselves into safe, organized pockets of people," said David Salazar, an American citizen whose ancestry traces back to Mexico. "It's great to see everyone, from inside and outside the Hispanic community, represented and mixing."

Like many people, Salazar brought along his family, including his 13-month-old son, Jesus Antonio. For Salazar, the festival provided a great opportunity to show non-Mexican family members what his heritage offered.

"It really helps show what our culture is about, instead of what is represented on the news with the gangs," he said.

Another benefit, Salazar said, was that all of the money raised will go to the Bill Garcia Memorial Fund, which supports at-risk Hispanic youth.

Not that the festival, which starts again today at noon and lasts until 11 p.m., is just a feel-good, educational experience. More than anything, it is a celebration that includes music, food, art booths and kids' activities.

Musical acts run the gamut from the always-popular Salsa Brava to the all-woman Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, with some folk and pop acts also included.

For many non-Hispanics, the easiest way to experience Hispanic culture is with the food from any number of food booths. Booths from 14 Hispanic (Spanish-speaking) countries offer everything from tamales to antichuchos (Peruvian shiskabobs) to rattlesnake meat tacos.

That's right, rattlesnake meat, a chewy white meat with a taste somewhere between pork and calimari. Add a dash of green chili salsa, sip from a cold cup of passion fruit juice, and you've got yourself a meal for less than $10.

Kids will find plenty to do, with booths offering mascara (mask) making and loteria (bingo). The kids' booths, in fact, are targeted as much at the non-Hispanic children as the Hispanics.

"We want the non-Hispanic children actively involved in the many Hispanic activities," said Juancarlos Quesadacespedos, entertainment director for the festival. "From an early age, they can learn how to appreciate the Hispanic culture, which will help them appreciate every culture, including their own."

Of course, the festival does a great service for Hispanic youth because it helps them understand their history, said Vince DeOllos, whose ancestry also goes back to Mexico.

"The children who were born in America can really appreciate the freedoms they have here," said DeOllos, who brought many of his family. "It gives them an outlook on the Hispanic traditions, from the food to the hobbies."

His granddaughter, 14-year-old Lindsey Ewell, agreed. Besides, it lets her show her friends something about her life.

"They can learn from what we do, and how we live," she said.