[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Sixth Annual Cubano Festival kicked off Friday, Aug. 14 at Jacob A. Riis Park, located in the city’s Belmont-Cragin neighborhood.
The festival, which concluded on Sunday, Aug. 16, had activities fit for the whole family, as children and adults participated in the games and animal rides. The carnival atmosphere was complete with a Ferris wheel, flying chairs and stands that sold carnival favorites like cotton candy and funnel cakes. Children were able to go on pony rides and a camel made a special appearance, offering rides to eager bystanders.
Darla Wocyzki, 43, waited for pinchos at the Enrique’s Place booth with her daughter, Naila, 8. Though Wocyzki is from Ukraine, she has lived in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood for the past 15 years and currently lives two blocks away from Riis Park with her boyfriend, Marco Dominguez, 49, who is first-generation Cuban and Naila’s father.
“It is nice to spend time with Naila and Marco in a place where he feels comfortable,” Wocyzki said.
“This is a special time because of the new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. It feels like we’ll get closer to our homeland,” Dominguez said. He added, “I hope that Naila will be able to go to Cuba one day, when things are better, and see where her family comes from and feel proud.”
Food vendors weren’t the only ones that lined Riis Park’s pathways. Vendors selling clothing and jewelry advertised their products while playing traditional Cuban music. Brothers Cigars Inc. rolled traditional hand-made cigars and puffs of smoke could be seen flowing in and out of their booth. Companies such as ComEd, Sprint, McGrath City Hyundai, McDonald’s and Dr. Pepper provided areas with interactive games for people of all ages. Joey Peres, 10, hopped on a bike in the ComEd booth. By peddling the bike at a high speed, he was able to inflate a plastic ball which he was able to keep.
“It was fun! But hard! I’m tired!” Peres said, before running to the Harmony Health booth to play bags. His mother, Melly Peres, 29, shook her head as she followed after him. “He says he’s tired but there he goes,” she said.
A festival wouldn’t be complete without music, as the festival boasted two stages: the Main Stage and the Home Depot Family Stage. At the Home Depot Family Stage, there were performances and workshops that taught audiences how to dance salsa and participate in a Zumba class. The Main Stage hosted the headliner bands including El Bandolero and Frankie Negron performing hits that had crowds dancing.
The Cubano Festival provided a packed weekend that celebrated Cuban food, clothing and culture.
This post is also available in: Spanish