Back on the waterfront!
For the first time since 2012, the Boricua Festival Committee, Inc. (BFC) in partnership with UPROSE and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca is bringing the fun back to the Sunset Park pier. “Salsa at the Waterfront 2016,” scheduled for Saturday, June 25, is a day-long festival for all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
The tradition began in 1998 in Prospect Park and remained there for over a decade. Last year, BFC brought back its Boricua Festival after two years of absence, but in the neighborhood’s park, thanks to obtaining sound permits. This time, it returns to the 58th Street pier, First Avenue and 58th Street.
“When we first did this at the pier, it was a gamble,” said Co-Founder and President of the Boricua Festival Committee Pat Ruiz. “We didn’t know [if] it was going to work. The people enjoyed Prospect Park since they could barbecue, but the pier turned out to be a huge success. The reason people come is they love it. They bring their beach chairs and coolers. They can fish and still enjoy the music, entertainment, buy food, meet new people and form a great connection with friends they haven’t seen in a long time.”
The Sunset community is happy that it’s back and has always embraced the party atmosphere. “We invited community based organizations, city agencies, every provider we could think of. There’s no fee and we don’t ask for any donations. None of us are paid,” she said, adding that around 25 community-based organizations will be taking part. “It makes me happy to give back to a community that has done so much for me. This event has always been a family event. It’s something expected every year. I’m happy when people are asking when it’s happening.”
The event is also not just for one demographic. “It’s not just an event for Puerto Ricans. Sunset is so diverse. It’s really a wonderful thing to sit back and watch,” Ruiz added. “To see the kids dancing salsa is amazing. People say they can’t wait. We usually have 5,000-10,000 people. I expect it to be the same [this year], if not more.”
This year’s event is dedicated to the late Dr. Antonia Pantoja, the founder of and the inspiration for several organizations that addressed the social needs and educational aspirations of the Puerto Rican community and its youth. She was the founder of ASPIRA and Boricua College.
As an addition to this year’s event, the BFC will award a promising student with a scholarship and award named after Pantoja. “We reached out to community based organizations and colleges and wanted to nominate and recognize a young Puerto Rican, ages 15-21, who has had a significant impact on the community,” Ruiz said. “We are so happy and pleased we are able to award a young lady named Amanda Morales.”
Morales, a senior and Martin Luther King Scholar at Ithaca College, will be presented with a check for $1,000 and a plaque for her stellar grades and volunteer work. The presentation will be at 3:30 p.m. and a special guest will present the award.
“Gotham” actor J.W. Cortes will be the day’s emcee. “He is someone from Sunset Park and an actor who is living his dream. What better person to have as a part of this event. Our youth needs mentors,” Ruiz added.
Beyond the music, vendors will be selling Puerto Rican food and merchandise. There will also be a cultural corner that will feature works of arts reflecting Puerto Rican history and culture, a magic show for the kids, and a mobile Brooklyn Public Library on hand where attendees can get a library card.
Willie Villegas, creator of “Salsa En La Calle Television” will host the event with Cortes. Performing artists will include La Revolucion Lorenz Dance Company, Latin Fever on 2 Dancers, Trio Ideal, Mambo Legends Orchestra, Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra and the evening’s featured artist, Tony Vega y su Orquesta.
The fun starts at 12 p.m. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/BoricuaFestival2015.