Salsa music and dancing took over the 58th Street Pier in Sunset Park to welcome back the Salsa on the Waterfront festival on Saturday, June 25.
The Boricua Festival Committee, Inc. (BFC), along with UPROSE and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, brought back the day-long festival to its home at the 58th Street Pier at First Avenue and 58th street after four years.
Co-Founder and President of the Boricua Festival Committee Pat Ruiz was thrilled to see the community come together to dance, eat Spanish food, and celebrate Puerto Rican heritage and culture.
“By the end of the day, there were at least maybe 7,000 to 8,000 people in attendance,” said Ruiz.
Beginning in 1998, the festival was a tradition in Prospect Park and was held there for almost a decade before moving to Sunset Park. Last year, the festival was brought back to Sunset Park by the BFC after two years of absence and took place in the neighborhood’s park.
Ruiz is glad the festival was finally brought back to the pier and to see people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds at the celebration.
“It’s not just about celebrating Puerto Ricans. The Sunset Park community is so diverse, and everybody dances salsa now,” said Ruiz.
This year, the festival was dedicated to the late Dr. Antonia Pantoja, the founder of ASPIRA and Boricua College, for addressing the social needs and the educational aspirations of the Puerto Rican community. A scholarship was given in her name to Amanda Morales, a senior and Martin Luther King Scholar at Ithaca College, for her excellence in school and her volunteer work.
Along with salsa dancing and a wide variety of Spanish food, there was also a cultural corner featuring artwork reflecting Puerto Rican history and culture, a magic show for the children, and a Brooklyn Public Library station where the community could sign up for library cards.
While Ruiz and the rest of the volunteers at the BFC are still recuperating from Saturday’s event, they have begun planning for next year’s festival and are confident it will take place at the pier again after this year’s turnout.
“It’s all volunteer work, and while we aren’t paid, it’s worth it to bring this back to the community,” said Ruiz.