Beacon -It wasn’t quite noon, but the long lines were already forming.
Meanwhile, Ivy Quintero, co-owner of Kingston’s Oasis on the Water Cafe, was rapidly finalizing her booth’s offerings on the nearby marker board: "empanadas," "chicharrones," "carne frita" and "corn dogs" was each neatly marked.
Musicians from several groups were hauling in equipment, as a d.j rattled off a lengthy listing of the upcoming events for the picturesque day.
The buzz about the 14th Annual Latin American Festival, held at Beacon’s Riverfront Park Sunday had been traveling for months, and it was now all about to begin.
It’s exactly the energy its organizer, Eddie Ramirez had hoped for when he started the festival in 1996. A transplant to the area from Corning, New York, Ramirez, the CEO and director of Poughkeepsie’s R & M Productions, saw an immediate need for the culturally diverse affair. Once he viewed the scenic, spacious Riverfront Park and met with local city officials, his vision was complete.
The first festival, which included a d.j., couple of musicians and vendors, attracted about 250 people. Its attendance has steadily risen ever since. Sunday’s event tallied several thousand throughout the course of the day. Thirty vendors provided an assortment of information, shopping memorabilia, and authentic cuisine. Meanwhile, two large, powerful Latin bands, Conjunto Imagen and Tony Rivera and his Orchestra and Sonado, took the front stage, inciting tapping, jostling, dancing and constant movement, along with plenty of smiles from onlookers. Maria Mojica of Beacon, who has been attending the festival every year since its beginning, was amongst those in the front row.
"I love being outside in the fresh air, and experiencing the food, music and culture," said Mojica, who was accompanied by 15 family members. "This festival is good every year; the crowds vary according to the time of the day, but no matter what, it’s always about family and a really good time."
Adults were not alone in the fun. For children, there was facepainting, an inflatable jumping pit and Henna tattoos. Despite these attractions, the cultural flair remained the pull.
"It’s really, really nice here; we always go to all the different ethnic festivals in New York City," said Beacon resident Qiana Winters as her son Kindu had his name facepainted on his forehead. "So it’s just so nice to have one right here near us in order to give the children exposure to different cultures and people."
Taking some money from mom to jump on a ride, Kindu confirmed that cultural allure.
"I like the rides, facepainting, music and food, exclaimed the excited fourth grader. But the best part are those pictures over there."
He was pointing to the nearby photography booth of Newburgh photographer Jaime H. Hernandez. A freelance photographer, Hernandez specializes in travel subjects, particularly his homeland, Puerto Rico.
"I love seeing the blend of cultures here- not just Latin Americans, but people from all over; it’s just such a clean, friendly overall atmosphere," pointed out Hernandez, whose work also includes images of the Hudson Valley and Long Island. "It’s a great family setting."
And if you weren’t able to attend Sunday’s gala, experiencing what many refer to as the "Ramirez Family Reunion," fear not, Ramirez plans to continue the party next Sunday, July 19th, when he brings his Latin Festival to Kingston.