This weekend will bring the annual Festival Betances to the South End’s Villa Victoria community, and the region’s largest Puerto Rican cultural festival will feature a stellar all-female musical lineup for the first time ever.
Festival Betances will kick off on Saturday, July 20, with an opening ceremony and parade through the South End, followed by a day of activities on Saturday and Sunday, June 21. However, the real action and excitement will come in the evenings when the women take over center stage.
“This year we’re really, really excited because for the first time ever we have an all-female musical lineup,” said IBA CEO Vanessa Calderon-Rosado. “The lead singer in each group is a Latina. That is very exciting to give the stage and forum for these very talented women to show what they can do on the Betances stage.”
The all-female lineup includes Fabiola Mendez, Karla Rivera, Gilenny Gi, Zayra Pola, and Michelle Brava.
Calderon-Rosado said the main act will be Gisselle, who although from Puerto Rico, has made it big with the Dominican Merengue style of music.
“She has a really big following and everyone is excited that she is actually coming to Betances,” she said.
In addition to the music, there will be plenty of food, a basketball tournament at O’Day Playground, youth performances and prizes.
Additionally, one of the highlights of the 40-plus-year old Festival will be the return of the Greased Pole Competition. As mysterious as it is interesting, the contest had to be canceled last year for the first time ever due to bad weather. The origins of the contest are not entirely known, but the tradition is cemented into the community, and this year it will be back.
“For the first time last year we didn’t have the greased pole contest, but this year we are bringing it back,” said Calderon-Rosado.
The greased pole contest takes place on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
The musical lineup performances are as follows:
•Fabiola Mendez y Herencia Criolla, Saturday, 4 p.m.
•Jose Salgado, Leslie Santiago y Orquesta, Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
•Grupo Chevere and Gilenny Gi, Saturday, 6:45 p.m.
•Michelle Brava Live, Saturday, 8 p.m.
•Gilenny Gi, Sunday, 3 p.m.
•Karla Rivera, Sunday, 4 p.m.
•Zayra Pola y su Orquesta, Sunday, 5:15 p.m.
•Gisselle, Sunday, 7 p.m. Encore Boston