Puerto Rican Fest Will Bring Stars Out
Kissimmee will get a taste of one of Puerto Rico’s oldest and most celebrated cultural events Sunday when the Discovery of Puerto Rico festival comes to the Kissimmee Valley Agricultural Center.
The event, which commemorates the European discovery of the Caribbean island, will feature two of the music industry’s popular salsa performers – Lalo Rodriguez and Tito Allen – and a variety of local entertainers.
Rodriguez is best known for the song ”Ven Devorame” (”Come Love Me”). His album, Naci Para Cantar (Born to Sing), was released several years ago and recently achieved platinum status.
Allen has performed since 1973. A former partner with salsa king Tito Puente in the band Tipica ’73, he recorded several acclaimed songs and has become a favorite at salsa festivals.
Both singers are in heavy demand in Puerto Rico and each tours the United States throughout the year, said Susan Plasencia, marketing director for promoter Rene’s Productions.
”Lalo and Tito are wonderful performers,” she said. ”Since we announced that they would be here, we have received so many phone calls from excited people who want to find out about the festival.”
Salsa has deep musical roots in Cuba and Puerto Rico, Plasencia said.
”There are many singers today that use the salsa style in their music,” she said. ”Gloria Estefan, for example, has a lot of Latin influence.”
Also scheduled for the Discovery of Puerto Rico festival are amusement rides for children, dances and several food vendors cooking up Hispanic favorites from several different regions. The event will be outdoors, but Plasencia said the show could be moved into the center if it rains.
The first Discovery festival was last year at Orlando’s Festival Park near Orlando Executive Airport. But the location was moved to Kissimmee because Orlando officials required entertainment to end before sundown.
”At this time of year, it gets dark pretty early and we really wanted the festival to run until 8 or 9 (p.m.). In Kissimmee we don’t have that restriction,” said Plasencia, whose father Rene has produced other festivals.
Promoter Rene Plasencia has been well-recognized for his efforts to promote Hispanic activities in the area. Earlier this year, Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary named him honorary sheriff and Orange County Chairman Linda Chapin declared Sept. 9 Rene Plasencia Day.
”My father’s festivals have done a lot for the Hispanic people,” Plasencia said. ”When we first started holding them, politicians didn’t really seem to care about us. But now that they see how many Hispanic people there are in the area and how many come to the festivals, they almost always show up to speak with us.”
Past events also have united the many divided sectors of the Puerto Rican community. It’s estimated that Puerto Ricans make up at least half of the Hispanic population in Central Florida. The 1990 census placed that population in Central Florida at more than 125,000 residents.
Plasencia said she hopes the Kissimmee festival will be a success. If so, she added, it might become an annual event in Kissimmee.
”I think we’ll have a good turnout. At other festivals, we were really surprised how many Latin people live in the Kissimmee and Poinciana areas,” she said.