By Seth Daniel
The annual Festival Betances, one of the oldest Latino festivals in the region, will kick off Saturday afternoon and feature two days of great Latin-inspired music, food and games.
While the Festival has typically kicked off with a parade on Friday night, this year the Festival has been compacted into two days – holding the Parade on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“This year we changed the format a little bit,” said IBA Executive Director Vanessa Calderon-Rosado. “All the traditional events will happen, but we’ve condensed the overall Festival to Saturday and Sunday. The parade that is traditionally happening on Friday will be Saturday afternoon now. That will kick everything off…This year we’re very excited about the musical lineup. They are names that are household names. They’re not big rock star status, but they are names many will recognize and artists that are very well established. We’re excited and we think we’ll have a great crowd. We hope the whole neighborhood comes out to see the culture and the music that is so exciting.”
The Parade will begin on Plaza Betances in the South End and go through Villa Victoria to Washington Street and then back to the Plaza.
Saturday will also include the famous Domino tournament, youth performances from the IBA Youth and the annual basketball tournament. Performers on Saturday include Alexander Faria y su Orquestra, Eric German y su orquestra and Vinny Rivera.
There will also be a lot of local young people performing, she said.
Sunday begins at 1 p.m. with that famous Greased Pole climbing contest, dedicated this year to former D-4 Community Service Officer Jorge Dias. Officer Dias was a long-time supporter of the Festival, and the organizers wanted to do something to recognize all of his hard work. Earlier this year, he transferred to the Boston School Police from D-4.
The greased pole contest has a very mysterious beginning, with the genesis of it likely being a game show in Puerto Rico in the 1970s where newlyweds were challenged to do things like climb a greased pole. No matter where it came from, it has certainly come to stay as its been part of the Festival for decades.
Performers on Sunday include Jorce Arce/El Bombazo, Zayra Pola, Ray de la Paz y su orquestra, and El Amable De La Salsa with Johnny Rivera.
Calderon-Rosado said the Festival is also one of the oldest in the City.
“It’s been nearly 50 years now,” she said. “IBA will celebrate 50 years next year and the Festival is about as old…It’s a long-standing Festival celebrating culture. It was a way to celebrate Puerto Rican and Latino culture and a great way to bring families together…It still brings people back. A lot of folks who moved out of Villa Victoria or the South End are very enthusiastic to return every year to visit with old friends and family. People definitely come back and that’s part of the excitement.”