BY CLARE MARIE CELANO Staff Writer
FREEHOLD — Colorful costumes, upbeat Latin music, dancers, singers and an array of foods were the order of the day in Downtown Freehold on Oct. 2 as the Latino Festival came to town once again.
The event took place in the Monmouth County Hall of Records parking lot between East Main and Lafayette streets.
Guests stopped by the booths of vendors who had set up shop in the parking lot, selling everything from toys and dolls to delicately handmade jewelry. Information from civic organizations was also available. Representatives of the Freehold Borough Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office were also in attendance.
This year, for the first time, the event also included a film festival.
The music was stimulating, the costumes and musical acts were vivid and colorful, and the guests loved it.
Local teen artist Veronica Kole performed at the Latino Festival for the third consecutive year. Kole, of Freehold Township, opened the festival with “The Star- Spangled Banner.” She also sang some of her original compositions in English, as well as some sultry Spanish classics.
This year Kole brought along a new addition to her act — dancers.
Dressed in a pink skirt, a black cropped top and black boots, Kole belted out her original tune “Ready for You” flanked by three female dancers.
The members of the dance group Cimmarones, of Plainfield, were dressed in white flowing dresses sporting a red sash. The women moved to the Latin percussion performed on drums behind them.
The members of the Alborado Dance Theater were dressed in bright costumes of red, purple and blue, blending their talents and their passions on stage for the hundreds of guests who watched them.
Once again, Elcira brought her Zumba party to the Latino Festival. As always, she provided high-energy dance to the Latin music.
Also appearing were the Rock ‘N’ Roll Chorus from Howell, led by Joseph Cantaffa, a teacher at Howell High School; the pop duo Diverse, comprised of Eddie Perry of Cookstown and Zack Van Mourik of Cape May; and tenor Luis Pacheco.
The Mariachi Instrumental de Mexico and Grupo Caribe also performed.
Although the Latino Festival has always has an educational component, this year the committee members added something new — a college fair.
“We have always included an educational component in the festival with our essay contest for children, but this year we expanded that to include a college fair in partnership with Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement (HISPA), which had a great turnout,” said Lazaro Cardenas.
Cardenas co-chaired the festival with Diana Tennant.
HISPA President Ivonne Diaz-Claisse, of Freehold Township, said the mission of the organization is “to inspire and motivate students by enabling Hispanic/Latin role models to participate in programs within our communities.”
Diaz-Claisse with Mayra Caceres, HISPA Role Model from AT&T, and other volunteers from Georgian Court University and Freehold High School
Cardenas said he and Tennant were excited with the turnout and success of the festival.
“It was a lot of hard work for our committee members, but it paid off in the end,” Cardenas said.
He estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 people visited the festival at some point during the afternoon.
Ann Bagchi, who chaired the film festival, said committee members were extremely happy with the turnout for the movies that made up the film festival. The Center Players, South Street, hosted the film screenings.