The Latin American Festival

The Latin American Festival will be going on this Sunday, Oct. 15 and it’s the perfect event to take your friends, family, or even that one lame cousin that insists on hanging out with you all the time but only wants to talk about his model plane collection. Now you have something to take them to where you can “lose them” in the crowd!

Aside from being an excuse to ditch your cousin, the Latin American Festival will be hopping with flavor, sassy trumpets, salsa sways, and a rich cultural history you can experience and learn about, all in one event.The festival began 26 years ago, and features a fantastic variety of music, dancing, food, authentic crafts, more food, a BOUNCY CASTLE (for the kids. Not that any adult would attempt to crash this section. Ahem.), and more!

I caught up with the Public Information Coordinator for Charleston County Park & Recreation Commision, Sarah Reynolds, to learn more, specifically why I wasn’t allowed on the bouncy castle. Unfortunately, that part was deleted by our editor. So, I guess we’ll just ask Reynolds about the festival. 

“Unlike any other event Charleston County Parks hosts, the Latin American Festival celebrates many cultures from all around the world. Lowcountry residents from many different backgrounds come together help to foster community pride, teach people new things, and strengthen relationships,” Reynolds said. 

And there is a wide variety of events at the festival to experience these different backgrounds and communities. Three bands will be performing:  Sharey y su grupo Klave, a six-piece band; Bakalao Stars, a Latin ska group; and Orquesta Mayor, a 12-piece horn group who will perform a tribute to Celia Cruz (if you are unfamiliar with Celia Cruz’s work, do yourself a favor and look it up. I promise within thirty seconds you’ll find yourself dancing with the nearest living creature. We are not responsible for any unsuspecting neighbors or snoozing pets that get caught up in your dance fever).

So what can you expect to experience when you arrive at the Latin American Festival?

“Music ranging from salsa to merengue to Latin ska will play throughout the day on the main stage; you’ll see many people dancing and brilliant traditional costumes on display; colorful souvenirs and authentic crafts will be for sale throughout the event; and there will be a large food vendor section with various types of food choices, including foods from Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean (see vendor list below) plus festival foods, The authentic Latin foods tend to be the most popular food choice,” said Reynolds.  “Kids will have an area just for them at one end of the meadow, with jump castles and educational exhibits indoors in Cypress Hall. You can bring blankets and chairs to sit near the stage or around the dance floor, but most people stand up or dance. It’s a fun, lively atmosphere with plenty to experience!”

DJ Luigi Bravo will play music in between sets, and is also hosting the  salsa dance contest starting at 3:00 p.m., so if you’ve ever wanted to live out your Dancing With the Stars dreams (or watch the pros do what they do best!), make sure you swing by! And if you’re terrified your friend or significant other is going to make you dance, we recommend stocking up on some amazing food from the food vendors (though again, the chances you will leave this event without AT LEAST having tapped your foot aggressively are extremely low).  

Other performances you can catch while stuffing your face with Latin American food include the Buen Ache Dance Company, Brazilian martial arts demonstrations from Capoeira Charleston, and a traditional costume fashion show. Reynolds recommends planning out which acts you want to see beforehand to make sure you don’t miss them (the full schedule is listed at the bottom of this article).

Tickets for adults are $10. Guests with student IDs get in for $5, and kids 12 and under and Charleston County Parks Gold Pass holders come in for free. The Latin American Festival will run from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at North Charleston Wannamaker County Park.  Dogs and outside food or beverages are not permitted. Before or after the event, you can take the family to explore beautiful Wannamaker County Park, including trails, playgrounds and more!

Here is a list of the food vendors for this year, and an entertainment schedule:

Food Vendors
La Isla Bonita
The Island’s Mobile Kitchen
Café Tippeneaux
Tropical Paradise
The Food Truck Saywite
El Pincho Taco 
The Ice Cream Team
Taste of the Islands
King of Pops

12 p.m.  Sharey & su grupo Klave
1 p.m.  Buen Ache Dance Company
1:30 p.m.  Capoeira Charleston
2 p.m.  Bakalao Stars
3 p.m. Salsa dance contest with DJ Luigi of Latin Groove Charleston and Traditional Dress Fashion Show/Desfile Trajes Tipicos
4:30 p.m.  Tribute to Celia Cruz by Orquesta Mayor