Get ready to rumba! The Kenner Hispanic Summer Fest returns to Laketown in Kenner this weekend for the fifth year with Latin rhythms, flavors and family fun.
The event was established by Tulio Murillo, of Gala Music, in collaboration with Rafael Saddy, of Celebración Hispaña de Kenner, as a way to give thanks to the local community and celebrate Hispanic culture. Murillo described the ambience of the free fête as “tropical,” with cool breezes emanating from Lake Pontchartrain.
“You feel like you’re in the Caribbean,” he said.
In previous years, the Hispanic Summer Fest was a one-day affair. Since it has grown in popularity, attracting both Latinos and non-Latinos from across southeast Louisiana, Hispanic Summer Fest now fills both Saturday and Sunday. But it’s still free.
Murillo is expecting about 20,000 attendees. And he noted that, because the event has become such a success, he has been able to book big names in the Latin music scene.
The Saturday headliner is Eddy Herrera — a merengue singer from Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic. And on Sunday, singer Eddie Santiago, who is from Puerto Rico, will close the festival with lively salsa beats. Their performances are expected to attract big crowds.
“Everyone in the Latin culture knows of both these artists,” said Murillo, explaining that it is rare to have such acclaimed singers travel to the city to perform at a free event. “I’m excited that I’m able to bring these artists to the community at no charge.”
In addition to the main entertainment acts, nine Latin bands will take the stage, including Grupo Recuerdo, Roma Paz and local favorite Rumba Buena.
But no matter what type of music is playing, festivalgoers will undoubtedly gather in front of the stage to shake and sing along.
“It breaks all barriers in the Hispanic community,” Murillo said of the diverse music offerings.
The festival fare also is wide-ranging. Vendors will be stationed along the perimeter of the festival grounds, serving Colombian arepas, Salvadoran pupusas and Honduran carne asada. Local taquerias and restaurants, like Chilango’s and Pupuseria Lila’s, will be on hand serving menu favorites.
For newcomers to Hispanic cuisine, Murillo recommends the roasted corn, saying: “It’s to die for.”
Hispanic Summer Fest also includes an arts and crafts area for children, along with a vast green space that is great for running around and playing games. Guests are encouraged to bring a lawn chair and an umbrella so they can comfortably enjoy the music performances and dances.
Besides providing a forum for entertainment and exotic food, the Hispanic Summer Fest gives attendees an opportunity to visit with local advocacy groups, such as Accion New Orleans and the Latin American Civic Association of Louisiana. The festival also shines a light on local musicians and vendors and introduces them to a new market.
“All of the Hispanic businesses and non-Hispanic businesses can network and help each other grow within the community,” Murillo said.
Rafael Saddy, who established the event with Murillo, said uniting people of all ages and ethnicities was a primary reason for creating the Hispanic Summer Fest.
“One of the concerns that I had, as the Hispanic community grew, was that we were not integrating ourselves,” Saddy said. “And what better way to integrate than through music?”
Saddy encourages non-Latinos to stop by and discover the celebrated aspects of Latino culture.
“Approach (Hispanic Summer Fest) as an opportunity to come here and intermingle,” he said. “This is a festival that makes it affordable for anyone to participate.”
The fest will be held at Laketown, where Williams Boulevard meets the lake, from 3 p.m. to midnight Saturday and from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.