A core group of dedicated Elgin Puerto Ricans have made sure the 20th annual BoriquaFest becomes a reality, even with funding hurdles that threatened the anniversary celebration.
The Puerto Rican Heritage Organization found out this winter the city of Elgin would not be offering its standard sponsorship for Saturday's festival. That created a gap of several thousand dollars organizers struggled to fill instead of scrapping the event on the special year.
PRHO President Rosemarie Ramos said making it to 20 years is a point of pride for the community, which boasts the longest-running cultural festival in town. This year, especially, organizers are reaching out to the next generation.
"We're trying to get all young people involved in this so they can start with our heritage and keep on going from there since this will be like a new era for the Puerto Ricans in Elgin," Ramos said.
A young, local singer will launch the festival with the national anthem and 17-year-old BoriquaFest Queen Abigail Soto will join her peers from Aurora and Chicago Puerto Rican festivals in a special kids area Saturday. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Festival Park. Kids will be able to play in a bounce house and do craft projects with the queens.
Soto grew up in Elgin and has been walking and performing in Puerto Rican parades and festivals since she was 4 years old. She said she loves being part of the cultural events tying her to her island heritage.
"It makes me feel a part of what I am," Soto said. "Even though I don't go visit as much as I want to, I still feel close and well-connected with my culture."
Soto, a rising senior at Burlington Central High School, will be crowned queen during a Dignitary Dinner at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Elgin Community College Business Center, building E, 1700 Spartan Drive, where the grand marshal for the festival will also be announced.
Entertainment for BoriquaFest is planned for the entire day with a combination of DJ mixing, traditional Puerto Rican music, Latin dance music and performances by Ivangel Dance Studio's team from Elgin. Freddy Kenton Jr., will be the musical headliner.
People are expected from across the region and neighboring states for the festival, which also includes a beer garden, 50/50 raffle, domino tournament and salsa dance lessons.
Iris Espinoza, vice president of PRHO, said looking back at 20 years of the festival's evolution and the chance to watch queens grow up and become moms with kids of their own has been an exciting, emotional time.
"It's been a struggle this year but we put it together in the end," Espinoza said.
The festival's future is up in the air. Organizers are considering smaller events with semiannual blowouts and participation in Elgin's International Festival instead of a separate BoriquaFest to reduce the economic burden moving forward. But not before local Puerto Ricans invite the community to enjoy their culture for the 20th year.
For details visit prho.org.