Then there was the music. The beat thumped for blocks during performances by more than 40 groups on five stages throughout the day. Booths selling a variety of merchandise pumped out their own music, too, and it captured some festival goers, who stopped for an impromptu Latin dance.
A dozen people gave a salsa demonstration at one booth that was promoting a dance studio.
“It’s just a really nice atmosphere,” said Gigi Garcia, 20, a nursing student at Seminole State College. “I’ve been in Puerto Rico before, and I feel like I’m back home again.”
Food and more food was the order of the day, but other booths offered merchandise and services ranging from hats, flags and shirts from Ecuador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Panama to beads and other inexpensive jewelry, sunglasses, hats and children’s blow-up toys.
“I love the food,” said Deanna Rodriguez, 20, a Valencia Community College paralegal student, as she snacked on alcapurrias, empanadas and pernil. “[And] I’ve seen people [here that] I haven’t seen in years. It’s kind of cool.”
The event, which ran till 7 p.m., was a marketing opportunity, too. Representatives of several political candidates tried to snare last-minute votes. The Army and the Marines tried to entice volunteers. Costco, pawnshops, McDonald’s and Spanish-language media were there. So were several social-service groups and the Orange County school district.
Between 20,000 and 30,000 people are estimated to have attended, Orlando police Lt. Orlando Rolon said. Other than some minor dehydration, no problems were reported.
Admission was $15 for adults and free for children 10 and younger.
Orange Avenue was likely to remain closed until 1 a.m. Monday to traffic from Colonial Drive to Robinson Street. Side streets off Orange also were closed all day, including Concord and Amelia streets from Magnolia to Garland avenues.
The event has been long enough that it’s almost down to a science as far as cleaning up and getting home,” Rolon said.