Festival Cubano Heats Up Chicago

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Each year, Festival Cubano gets bigger and better generating hundreds of thousands of festival enthusiasts over at Riis Park. Now, in its sixth year, the creator of Cuban Fest, George Herrera promises attendees will have a memorable time tasting the Cuban cuisine and listening to Cuban rhythms. Before opening day kicks-off, we spoke with Herrera to get his take on what he enjoys most about putting together one of the fastest growing festivals in Chicago.

Lawndale News: Here we are another year Chicago welcomes the Cuban Festival! What comes to mind year after year when the first day of the fest kicks-off and people rush over to Riis Park?
George Herrera: It’s very exciting, opening day. The first day is usually intense as we try to make everything perfect for all the festival attendees. First impression for us is a big deal. We try to create the wow factor. The first day is the toughest, but once the show is up and running it’s just a matter of keeping the park family fun and safe for the entire weekend.

What would you say is the best part of the process when putting together a festival of this magnitude?
The process for a festival of this size is very detailed. The best part for me is the entertainment we want to book. We go through a couple of months of artist selection. We then narrow it down to our favorites for the year. Once we confirm the musicians we booked, it sets everything else in motion

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Each year, the Cuban fest gets bigger and better. Do you find it challenging to outdo the previous year?
Definitely: The challenge each year is how we can make the festival bigger and better than the one before. Raising the bar is what my company is known for and so far we have not disappointed the public. I am very fortunate to have great people around me that have this same type of drive. Getting bigger and better doesn’t necessarily mean having bigger artists but instead tightening up the small details that have a huge impact on the festival.

What are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s fest?
This year we are really excited about our second stage expansion and carnival rides. Every year as much as we try to schedule all local musicians and other programs on the main stage (alongside our headliners), we always run out of time slots. Festival attendees will really enjoy our new and improved stage. In addition, the carnival operation will double in size adding a ton of new rides for all ages.

As you know, the Cuban community is vibrant and passionate. For non-Cubans attending the fest what do you hope they take away?
Cuban culture is so beautiful. The impact and contributions that Cuban people have made in our communities for many decades given a spotlight at the festival. From the music, food, dance and arts we want our festival guests to walk away learning and appreciating the culture in a whole new way. But more than anything we are all Latino unidos. The festival offers a little bit of everything for all cultures.

Festival Cubano takes place August 14th -16th at Riis Park, Fullerton and Narragansett. For more information, visit www.thecubanfestival.com.

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