Aurora festival hosting musicians from Puerto Rico
For the 40th annual celebration of Puerto Rican heritage in Aurora, the president of the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council wanted to read a statement straight from the island to festival crowds. So Mirna Freitag-Lopez sent a letter to the Puerto Rican government.
She got a better response than she expected.
A group of 75 musicians from Puerto Rico will be traveling to Aurora for the festival, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at North River and Vine streets in downtown Aurora.
Not bad, considering all Freitag-Lopez wanted was something to read.
"I was just taking my chances," she said. "The worst they could say is no."
Instead, her contact sent members of three Puerto Rican bands -- Banda Municipal Junqueña, Ballet Folklorico Junqueña and Group Riyko -- and an alderman, all from a town called Juncos in the island's eastern region.
The Puerto Rican bands will perform onstage during the two-day festival, and Banda Municipal Junqueña will play from a float during the parade that steps off at noon Sunday from the corner of River and Benton streets downtown.
The parade is twice the size of the prior parades and is expected to include at least 56 units, Freitag-Lopez said.
The parade has as its grand marshal Lourdes Ferrer, an Aurora resident and national speaker who focuses on helping Latino students improve their performance in school. She holds a doctorate degree and goes by "Dr. Lourdes" in her public appearances.
She said she's wants the festival to be a positive event for Aurorans any heritage. "I'm looking for a welcoming spirit from the community," she said. "This is about making Aurora better and stronger."
Aside from the parade and musical performances in merengue, reggae and full orchestral styles, plenty of Puerto Rican food can be found at the festival, which also features a carnival both days and a dominoes tournament at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the beer garden tent.
"Dominoes is very big in Puerto Rico -- that's the No. 1 thing when people gather," Freitag-Lopez said.
Before the festival opens, the cultural council will host a party Friday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. at La Quinta De Los Reyes, 36 E. New York Street so Aurorans can meet the Puerto Rican performers.
And whether people come for the music, food, or the free festival atmosphere, Ferrer said the event shows the contributions Hispanics make to the Aurora community.
"We have to preserve our values, our traditions," Ferrer said. "We believe we have a lot to give to the Aurora community."
If You GoWhat: Celebrating 40 years of Puerto Rican Heritage Festivities in Aurora
When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, July 29; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 30; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 31
Where: Friday, La Quinta De Los Reyes courtyard, 36 E. New York Street, Aurora; Saturday and Sunday, North River and Vine streets in downtown Aurora
Who: Sponsored by the Aurora Puerto Rican Cultural Council
Cost: Free admission; food and carnival rides for purchase
Details: Parade steps off Sunday, July 31 at noon from River and Benton streets;
Info: (630) 631-9270 or aurora-prcc.org