Conga Caliente is all about
the love of Latin cultures
The annual concert festival takes over Al Lopez Park again with bigger beats and international headliners.
BY JULIE GARISTO | Oct. 30, 2018
Maritza Astorquiza, Alex Cora and their Conga Caliente posse are proof of what years of working overtime on an event can accomplish.
Bigger than any previous year, their 15th annual Conga Caliente fall festival pays tribute to Latin cultural heritage in the U.S. and will be celebrating its 15th year on Sunday, Nov. 4, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Al Lopez Park. The festival draws thousands, including out-of-town and out-of-town visitors.
As always, admission is gratis — even though international headliners will be taking the stage, representing nations across the Americas and Caribbean.
“We envision it as a place where people could go and experience Spanish-speaking cultures and the arts as a family,” explains Astorquiza, owner of Coda Sound in West Tampa. “The event is free because we believe in the importance of providing people from all incomes a free, open, quality family festival.”
In addition to a domino tournament, a variety of traditional ethnic foods will keep the crowd from going hungry. A beer garden will be featured, as well as healthcare info and art villages and traditional cigars. Ample free parking will be available at Raymond James Stadium.
For enthusiasts of Latin sounds, the lineup is stellar: Grammy winner and merengue star Johnny Ventura, known to many as “El Caballo,” will headline the stage. Over the course of a career spanning six decades, the Dominican performer recorded more than 100 albums.
Two Grammy nominees make up the rest of the international line-up: Spanish singer-songwriter Braulio and Cuban singer-actress Aymeé Nuviola, best known for her role as Celia Cruz in the 2015-16 TV series Celia. In addition, Estrella TV stars Stephanie Gerard (El Mameluco) and Aylín Mújica (Buenos Días Familia will be on-hand to greet fans.
Locals will represent, too. Tampa-based Mambo Lebron is sure to heat up the crowd with his rump-shaking salsa tunes. Colombian-born artist Sarita Paccine, who paints intricate figurines and ceramic wall plates, will be among the locals featured in the fest’s art village.
If the rhythm hasn’t gotten you already, this year’s fest marks the premiere of a competition apropos to the name Conga Caliente. The Conga Players Stage invites all conga aficionados to bang an infectious beat to win prizes.
Al Lopez Park can be found at 4810 Himes Ave., Tampa. Find out more about the fest at congacaliente.com.