Boricua Festival brings the heat, fundraises for Puerto Rico

Sunset Park brought the heat and Puerto Rican pride.

The 20th annual Boricua Festival Salsa at the Waterfront returned to Sunset’s Pier 4 on Saturday, June 30, making for yet another successful event.

Despite the excessive heat, a massive crowd ate and danced the day away at the festival, a highlight of which included a performance by 10-time Grammy Award winner Eddie Palmieri.

“It was amazing,” said Co-Founder and President of the Boricua Festival Committee Pat Ruiz. “It was an absolute success. Despite the heat, it was a great turnout.”

This year was special, Ruiz said, as the festival also served as a fundraiser for Puerto Rico after the destruction brought by Hurricane Maria.

“I still have the containers. I haven’t had an opportunity to empty them but I see hundred dollar bills in them,” she said of the total amount raised.

Among those who donated, she said, was the Eileen C Dugan Senior Center in Red Hook.

“[We just received] a $350 check from the seniors so I’m really gracious and grateful,” Ruiz said, adding that one of the center’s reps — a big fan of Palmieri — had attended the festival and had a great time.

“It was great to see our seniors represented,” she said, stressing also the attendance of the United Senior Center.

But, at the end of the day, she said “A good time was had by all.”

Ruiz added that this was also one of the highest attended Boricua Festivals.

“Because of Eddie Palmieri, that pier was filled from beginning to end,” she said. “There was dancing all over the pier. All ages attended and the diversity was incredible as always. It was 100 percent successful.”

Even passengers on the NYC Ferry were enjoying the show.

“The best part was the ferry,” Ruiz added. “When they were traveling back and forth, the passengers heard the concert and you could see them dancing and waving.”

Ruiz also stated that the 72nd Precinct did a stellar job monitoring the event, with no major incidents reported.

“We did have two people affected by the heat but our local hospital which was NYU Langone-Brooklyn was on the scene,” she said. “They treated them, and they refused to leave. We made sure they had water.”

For the second year, the Boricua Festival Committee distributed scholarships to three Puerto Rican students as part of the Dr. Antonia Pantoja Youth Leadership & Service Award.

This year’s recipients were Julian Perdomo, Briana Rodriguez and Illusion Rivera.

“They didn’t know they were getting checks and that was a big surprise,” she said. “One of our sponsors, Bed Bath & Beyond, gifted them each with $500 gift cards.”

Although Ruiz just finished her 20th year organizing the festival, she’s already for the next one.

“We hope to make next year just as big or even bigger,” she said.

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