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posted: 7/23/2012 2:46 PM

Aurora Puerto Rican fest adds talent contest

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  • Puerto Rican cultural items will be for sale during the 41st annual Aurora Puerto Rican Heritage Festival, which runs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 28, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 29.

       Puerto Rican cultural items will be for sale during the 41st annual Aurora Puerto Rican Heritage Festival, which runs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 28, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 29.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer, JULY 2011

  • A parade, scheduled to step off at noon Sunday at Benton and Broadway streets in downtown Aurora, is always one of the highlights of the Puerto Rican Heritage Festival, organizers say.

      A parade, scheduled to step off at noon Sunday at Benton and Broadway streets in downtown Aurora, is always one of the highlights of the Puerto Rican Heritage Festival, organizers say.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

The addition of a new feature to the 41st annual Aurora Puerto Rican Heritage Festival came out of necessity. Organizers needed more performers to take the stage, but couldn't afford to pay any more musical acts.

"I thought 'How about we just get our own people together and fill the gaps between performers,'" said Mirna Lopez-Freitag, president of the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council, which plans the two-day festival, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 28, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 29, at 351 N. River St.

With that thought, the festival's new featured event was born.

"Our big highlight is the Aurora's Got Talent competition," Lopez-Freitag said about the contest for singers, dancers and musicians. "You don't have to live in Aurora to participate and it does not have to be in Spanish -- it's multicultural."

At least 10 performers are expected to compete in the Aurora's Got Talent semifinals at 2 p.m. Saturday, and the group will be whittled to a smaller number before the finals at 2 p.m. Sunday. The all-ages competition will award a cash prize to the winner and trophies to first- and second-place finishers.

Dance Fuze Studio in Aurora is hosting Aurora's Got Talent and will have coaches available before the competition to help performers hone their songs or steps, studio director Lynda White said.

Dance Fuze members also will do a Zumba demonstration Sunday at the festival and will be speaking to Latino fest goers about the importance of exercise and nutrition, White said.

When Aurora's Got Talent performers aren't on stage, DJ Tito Latino will be spinning tunes and a total of 11 musical acts will play traditional Puerto Rican songs, as well as hip-hop, salsa, cumbia, reggaeton and merengue. Saturday's closing act is Benji y su Merenbanda, while Carlitos Rey will close Sunday's festivities with a tribute to Frankie Ruiz.

"This year, we're adding a little bit of spice to it. It's not just Spanish music," Lopez-Freitag said.

The festival also offers a children's area, a beer garden, an ongoing dominoes tournament, food vendors, souvenirs for sale and a parade at noon Sunday, stepping off from the corner of Benton and Broadway streets.

Organizers are charging admission for the first time this year, with tickets costing $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and students. Children 5 and younger get in free to the event, which Lopez-Freitag said highlights Puerto Rican culture but is open to all.

"We're surrounded by so many different nationalities, it's not just about catering to the Puerto Ricans," Lopez-Freitag said. "We're celebrating our heritage, but we want everyone to come celebrate with us."

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