It’s Hispanic Heritage month, and one of the most popular events in town is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Conga Caliente, or hot drums in English, is a fun and exciting festival featuring music, food and live entertainment by some of the Latin music’s hottest artists.
This year’s event will include salsa singer Luisito Ayala and Puerto Rican Power, Matt Hunter (the Latin Bieber) and this year’s revelation, Leslie Grace, also known as the “Bachata Princess,” and the Nuevo Estilo Mariachi Band.
One of the festival headliners, Grace, is an 18-year-old singer with roots in the Dominican Republic. She was born in Bronx, New York, and raised in Florida. At 17, she became the was the youngest female singer to top Billboard’s Latin Radio airplay with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” from her self-titled album, “Leslie Grace.”
Puerto Rican Power, under the direction of Ayala, has been a force in the Salsa scene since the ‘70s, and pop star Matt Hunter, who got his start as the voice behind Diego on “Dora the Explorer,” is making Latina teens loca with swoon-worthy hits such as “Mi Senorita.”
“Our efforts are geared toward showcasing quality entertainment while providing a festival for guests of all ages,” said Maritza Astorquiza, producer of Conga Caliente. “Quality is the key, and the community deservers it.”
Conga Caliente started as a temporary event. The first festival held at Al Lopez Park was expected to draw 1,500, Astorquiza said she was surprised when more than 20,000 showed up for the celebration.
“It was so successful that we’ve repeated it every year,” said Astorquiza, a local business owner.
Organizers say they wanted to stay true to the festival’s roots of showcasing the best of Hispanic culture and entertainment, without putting a financial burden on families.
Despite the big name entertainment, they don’t charge admission because they want all families to enjoy the festivities.
“That’s the other key element of the festival,” added Astorquiza. “It’s free because we believe in the importance of providing people from all incomes a free open event.”
Past festivals have included artists Milly Quesada, Kevin Ceballos, Andy Andy, Maggie Carles and Tito Rojas. Others who also left their mark are Tito Nieves, the Barrio Boyzz and Grupo Manía, Rey Ruiz and Alvaro Torres.
This year’s festival also will include Radio Disney contests, children’s games, domino and chess competitions, art exhibits and free health screenings.
The talent line-up also includes appearances by television celebrities Enrique Gratas and Anais Salazar from the Spanish television program, “Estrellas Hoy.”
Live musical performances, food and other entertainment help celebrate Hispanic Heritage month
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Al Lopez Park, 4810 N. Himes Ave., Tampa
Tickets: Free admission and parking; www.congacaliente.com