Aurora festival hosting musicians from Puerto Rico

 
 
Updated 7/28/2011 4:02 PM
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  • The parade during the 40th annual Aurora Puerto Rican heritage celebration will be about double the length of previous parades, organizers say. The parade steps off at noon Sunday, July 31 from the corner of River and Benton streets in downtown Aurora.

    The parade during the 40th annual Aurora Puerto Rican heritage celebration will be about double the length of previous parades, organizers say. The parade steps off at noon Sunday, July 31 from the corner of River and Benton streets in downtown Aurora. Daily Herald File photo

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."