It's time for Toledo's fourth annual Latin love-in as the two-day LatinoFest gets under way tonight in Promenade Park with a full slate of music, dance, food, and arts celebrating Latino culture.
The musical lineup features such prominent national stars as Grammy Award-winning salsa ace Willie Colon, who is tonight's headline act, and Tejano king Little Joe y La Familia, who will headline tomorrow's show. Local Latino artists who will be featured include Jimmy Bejarano, Sr.; Tony Rios; Lily C; La Revancha, and Los Tres Sonidos.
Margarita DeLeon, co-chairman of the festival, promised that this year's lineup will be "the biggest, baddest LatinoFest yet."
Colon, who was born in the Bronx, N.Y., to a family of Puerto Rican heritage, is a singer, composer, arranger, and trombonist regarded as one of the leaders of the salsa music scene. He has recorded 40 albums that have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.
The 52-year-old musician has collaborated with such prominent musicians as David Byrne, Ruben Blades, and Celia Cruz and has used his musical fame to promote social causes that include immigrant rights, Latin American relief efforts, Amnesty International, and AIDS victim assistance.
Last October, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Colon as liaison to the city's Latin Media Entertainment Commission, of which Jennifer Lopez is the celebrity chairman, and last week Colon received an honorary doctorate degree from Lehman College in Brooklyn.
Little Joe y La Familia hail from Brownsville, Texas, where Jose Maria DeLeon Hernandez - known as "Little Joe" - has been crowned the "King of the Brown Sound."
Born in a dirt-floor garage in Temple, Texas, in October, 1940, Little Joe began playing in bands as a teenager and found that strumming the guitar was a much easier way to make a living than picking cotton.
Little Joe, whose "family" (La Familia) consists of eight musicians, made his recording debut in 1958 and has released more than 50 records, earning a Grammy Award in 1992 for the album "Diez y Seis de Septiembre," on Sony's Discos label.
Fremont accordionist Bejarano, originally from Brownsville, Texas, is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a musician and singer. Known for blues-tinged vocals and an agile touch on the accordion, Bejarano plays a style of Latin music known as conjunto - a favorite among the dance crowd.
Toledoan Lily Cardona, who goes by the stage name of Lily C, made her debut as a solo artist at age 6 and has played percussion with many of the top Latino musicians, including Tito Puente, Carlos Santana, and Ray Barretto.
Lily has written a musical titled Tierra Sagrada (Sacred Land), about her mother's homeland of Puerto Rico, which will make its stage debut next week in Connecticut.
La Revancha, which plays an energetic style blending rock, folk, blues, flamenco, and jazz, released its first album, "El Zarape," in March, while Los Tres Sonidos perform Latino hip-hop music.
Trumpeter and bandleader Rios has been a stalwart of the local Latino scene for years and is host of the popular TV program Voces Latinas.
In addition to the music, LatinoFest 2004 will offer demonstrations of dance, folklore, arts, and cuisine of Latino cultures; displays by local and regional artists; vendors specializing in Latino cuisine, a custom auto show, and family-oriented activities such as piata-making, mural painting, and arts and crafts.
The festival has been organized by more than 20 Latino organizations and CitiFest.
The fourth annual LatinoFest takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. today and from noon to 11:30 p.m. tomorrow in Promenade Park. Information: 419-249-5018 or www.citifest.org.