No stand-alone Puerto Rican festival in Elgin this year
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Elgin's Puerto Rican Heritage Organization, which came close to disbanding earlier this year, will not hold its staple summer festival BoriquaFest after 20 years.
Instead, PRHO will partner with the city of Elgin to participate in the international festival iFest on Aug. 31, said Elgin businessman Kevin Echevarria, 25, who became the PRHO's new president on May 1. iFest debuted last summer as an all-inclusive event celebrating Elgin's diversity.
Echevarria said he wants the Puerto Rican organization to stop focusing on organizing festivals and instead provide scholarships and community service.
"If this organization is going to survive, we need to step in and do this differently," he said. "We're an organization that is here to promote Puerto Rican culture, and to enhance the community — the Latino community."
There will be a 21st BoriquaFest at some point in the future, Echevarria said, but only when PRHO has established its new mission and is back on sound financial footing.
Former President Rosemarie Ramos she decided to step down after two and a half years because the organization needed "new blood." PRHO board members also decided to move on, and Ramos' search for a new president proved very difficult until Echevarria stepped in, she said.
"I'm happy that the organization kept going," she said. "With all his business experience, he has the knowledge and the willpower to do a good job for the organization."
Organizing last year's 20th anniversary festival was a true feat, Ramos said. The festival had to shut down early at 8 p.m. because the person in charge of providing night illumination never showed up, she added.
PRHO currently numbers two people — Echevarria and new vice-president Dennis Verges — who are searching for new board members. Last year's BoriquaFest Queen Abigail Soto is also part of the effort, Echevarria said.
Echevarria said that when he stepped in, PRHO had $150 in the bank and owed $2,700, mostly to the city. Barb Keselica, Elgin's special events and community engagement coordinator, said Echevarria is working with the city on a repayment plan that might include securing sponsorships for iFest.
A pro-bono accountant is working to reorganize the PRHO financial ledgers, Echevarria said.
"All of the money is accounted for, the books of the organization were just pretty unorganized," he said.
He also hopes to get marketing and grant-writing help from a Chicago group, he said.
Gil Feliciano, iFest co-chair and past president of the PRHO, said he's elated the organization will join in this year's iFest. PRHO was invited to participate last year, but opted to have its own festival to celebrate its 20th milestone, he said.
"It would be nice to have a summer scattered with lots different options of different festivals, but the harsh reality is that it's difficult (for organizations) to make that happen with today's economy," he said.
Echevarria said he knows some in Elgin's Puerto Rican community will be unhappy about not having BoriquaFest.
"If you want to be the group that wants to be off on your own, you're going to be looked as the group that doesn't want to work with everybody," he said.
He also said he's pushing for BoriquaFest's traditional domino tournament and Puerto Rican entertainment to be included in iFest.
PRHO will be participating Saturday in a cleanup of homes in Elgin's south east area, spearheaded by NHS of the Fox Valley. For more information or to join PRHO, email email@example.com.
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