Calle Ocho: 27th annual street fest takes over Little Havana Sunday
BY NATHALIE GOUILLOU
They work year long, bringing veteran Latin musicians who for just a day transform Little Havana's signature street into a hot music scene that transports older generations into their past while presenting the stars of the future.
While renowned salseros and new, hot Latin sensations remain the focus of Sunday's Calle Ocho Festival (though let's not forget all the great food), the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana opted, on its 27th year of throwing the party, to expand activities for youth -- ''those who will pass on the tradition,'' says the group's president, Eugenio Hernandez.
With that in mind, the Kiwanis is dedicating four street corners -- from Fourth to Eighth avenues -- to Kidz Zone, where children will get a chance to take a trip in the Kellogg's Tonymobile, devour chocolate in the Hershey's Kissmobile, play tennis games with U.S. Tennis Florida, or shake hands with the Kool-Aid man himself. The rule in that area: no tobacco or alcohol allowed.
''There's always been a children's corner at Calle Ocho with clowns and games for the little ones,'' says Sylvia Vieta, Little Havana Kiwanis spokeswoman. ``But this year we're reinforcing it, we want to keep the tradition going and have them come [to the festival] from their stroller days up to their old days.''
The tradition has certainly grown since the festival started in 1978 as a 15-block party, first highlighting the Cuban culture in Miami and now showcasing the region's Pan-American diversity.
On Sunday, a million revelers are expected to take over Eighth Street from Fourth to 27th avenues with 20 stages featuring more than a hundred Latin artists and bands and scores of food and drink vendors.
''Have fun and be prepared to dance a lot,'' Vieta said.
So here are some of the many musical highlights you'll want to catch Sunday.
• Ana Cristina: The 19-year-old Cuban American and Miami resident -- who was also the first Hispanic to sing the national anthem at a presidential inauguration -- is set to take the stage with a 12-member band and jam Calle Ocho with Latin pop and salsa rhythm. (Univision Radio Stage, Southwest 12th Avenue and 16th Avenue; El Nuevo Herald Stage, Southwest 27th Avenue.)
• Roberto Torres: The king of salsa and a living legend in the world of Latin music, Miami-based Torres is most notable for his fusion of Cuban and Colombian music to create charanga vallenata. (Miccosukee Stage, Southwest 13th Court.)
• Albita: This year's Queen of Carnaval Miami and 2004 Grammy winner for Best Tropical Contemporary Album. In Albita Rodriguez's latest album, the singer-songwriter adds a touch of hip-hop and rap to her mix of rock, jazz and traditional folk elements. (Budweiser Stage, at the Pep Boy vacant lot on 23rd Avenue; El Nuevo Herald Stage, Southwest 27th Avenue.)
• Lucrecia: The Cuban singer, songwriter and pianist is set to charm audiences with her sultry voice and Latin acid jazz tunes. (Telemundo 51 Stage, Southwest 10th Avenue; El Nuevo Herald stage, Southwest 27th Avenue.)
• Amaury Gutierrez: He kicked off his musical career in the '80s as a vocalist for Afrocuba. But it was Gutierrez's 1998 debut album El Gran Amaury Gutierrez that paved the Cuban singer and songwriter's path to success. (Univision 23 Stage, Southwest 17th Avenue.)
• Oscar D'León: Considered one of salsa's best soneros, the charismatic Venezuelan bass player and singer is a crowd pleaser. (Telemundo 51 Stage, 10th Street; Budweiser stage, at the Pep Boys vacant lot.)
• Frankie Negron: The Puerto Rican singer surfaced eight years ago with his mix of tropical music, contemporary pop sounds from his New Jersey upbringing. (Telemundo 51 Stage, 10th Street.)
• Ivy Queen: Puerto Rican queen of reggaeton and native New Yorker, Ivy Queen's 1997 debut album En Mi Imperio, which includes hit songs Pon Atencion and Como Mujer, established her in the world of reggaeton and rap. (Hennessy Stage, Southwest 12th Avenue; Coca Cola Stage, Southwest 22nd Avenue.)
• Rey Ruiz: His 1992 debut album Rey Ruiz launched him to the international scene and turned the Cuban singer into a favorite among romantic salsa artists. (Bud Light Stage, Southwest 17th Avenue.)
• Pitbull: The Florida native and first-generation Cuban American, whose real name is Armando Perez is set to take the stage with his incendiary songs from his debut album M.I.A.M.I that blends bilingual hip-hop, reggaeton and Jamaican dance hall. (Hennessy Stage, 12th Avenue.)
IF YOU GO
What: Calle Ocho Festival
Where: Southwest Eighth Street between Fourth and 27th avenues.
Hours: noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Information: Call the Little Havana Kiwanis Club at 305-644-8888.