State's Oldest Puerto Rican Festival More Popular Than Ever

Meriden Pr fest
Photo: Meriden Record Journal
Robert Cyr
CTLatinoNews.com

 
Five years ago, the annual  Puerto Rican Festival at Hubbard Park consisted of 350 people, a band  and one hot dog cart.  Now in its 47th year, the party – the oldest of its kind in the state – has ballooned in popularity, drawing more than  5,000 attendees this year, according to former Meriden Mayor Michael Rohde.

Meriden PR fest 2
Photo: Robert Cyr/CTLatinoNews.com

“It distinguishes Meriden, because no one else has anything like  this,” Rohde said. “When I left office, I said I was going to stay  with certain things I like, and this is one of them. It’s a very  mellow, family-oriented event. You’ll see the whole spectrum  here…grandparents and children, everyone just having a good time.”
Rohde joined a small festival committee five years ago that took the  reigns from a group that was having trouble fundraising, he said. The  committee is led by recently-retired Latino police officer Hector  Cardona, Sr., a prominent figure in the local Latino community,  organizing events like the annual Christmas-time Puerto Rican Holiday  Parranda.
“We’ve become well known for putting on a good show here and it keeps  getting bigger,” Cardona said. “The hardest part is doing the  administrative stuff, like raising money, paying for insurance and  permits.”
The fair is paid for with fees from food and vendor booths, helping  with the $800 insurance tab and the costs for a police presence. Many  vendors had to be turned away this year for lack of space, he said.
And a large part of the event’s success is due to the relatively large  numbers of Puerto Ricans in Meriden and surrounding cities like New  Britain.
According to US Census figures, Puerto Ricans make up about  three-quarters of all Latinos in the state, comprising about 14 percent of the total population. Meriden is 28.9 percent Latino,  with 13.6 percent of all businesses Latino-owned. By contrast, Latinos  own 4.2 percent of businesses in the state. Neighboring New Britain is  37 percent Latino.
Meriden PR fest 1
Photo: Robert Cyr/CTLatinoNews.com

The biggest draws for the fair are its food and music. More than a  dozen food stalls sold Cuajitos, Pinchos, Pasteles and Bacalaitos. A  whole suckling pig was  roasted by the amphitheater, where groups listened  to salsa and danced. Now larger with more money to spend on  entertainment, organizers were able to hire bands from New York and Puerto Rico and South America, including headliners Paquito Acosta y  Su Orq., La Orchestra Sensacional and Hector y Su Mocion Tropical.
The fair, however, was almost not held due to local budget cuts, when  recently-elected Portugese-born Mayor Manny Santos removed the  line-item in the budget, a cut later restored by the City Council.
Santos told a reporter from the local newspaper the Record-Journal  that he didn’t want there to be favoritism for funding local ethnic  fairs.
 

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3 thoughts on “State's Oldest Puerto Rican Festival More Popular Than Ever

  1. I suggest that the editor of this story should either have some level of bilingual skills or ask others in a “latino” publication how to spell words in Spanish – Pinchos, Bacalaitos, cuajito (singular). Just saying.

  2. Hi Carlos. Unfortunately typos happen..and copy editing isn’t always fool proof. But thanks for catching it. We always welcome comments. We strive for accuracy at all times.
    However, as someone who just had a great pastel and bacalaito last week…a friend’s ‘tia me mando’..I do think I have some level of ‘bilingual skills”. I just wish sometimes however ….our folks would focus on the positive…instead of instantly going into attack mode..and criticism. CTLatinoNews was glad to send someone to cover this event so Latinos and non-Latinos around the state would be more aware of this great gathering. Hope you enjoyed the story otherwise. Just saying!
    Diane Alverio, Publisher and Managing Editor

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