Latin Fest mambos way into fairgrounds for Sebastian Charter Jr High

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The county’s first-ever Latin Music, Film and Food Festival at the fairgrounds was so popular that organizers plan to make it an annual event for the years to come.

Several hundred people poured into the fairgrounds Saturday taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Sebastian Charter Junior High School’s Latin fest.

“We’re really excited,” Principal Dr. Martha McAdams said of the crowd.  

The festival served as a fund-raiser for not only the charter school, but also five local charities, including Boys & Girls Club of Indian River County, the Gifford Youth Activity Center, Pelican Island Audubon Society, the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch, and Substance Awareness Council of Indian River County.

“It’s really nice to give back,” said dancer James Martin, from the 14th Avenue Dance Studio. He and others from the studio performed Latin-inspired dances for the audience at the mid-way point of the festival.

The event was the brainchild of Sebastian Charter Junior High’s board chairman, John Rivera, who spent more than two decades in the Latin entertainment industry. He said that he was surprised to find out that Indian River County is one of the last counties in Florida not to have an established Latin festival.

“It would make sense to have one,” he said. So, he got one started.

Armed with an idea for the event, Rivera started making phone calls to his friends and contacts in the industry. One of the first calls was to Tito Rodriguez, of the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra.

“He’s a very close and dear friend,” Rivera said.

“‘I’m there, whatever you need,'” Rivera recalled Rodriguez saying.

Rivera said he plans to make the festival an annual event, serving as a community fund-raiser for the charter school and others.

“It’s all going to stay right here,” Rivera said of the funds raised at the festival.

Sebastian Charter Junior High is currently raising funds in order to build a permanent school. The charter school is operating out of multiple portable units that are expected to give out within the next two years.

Among the numerous musical and dancing performers were members of the Charter High School Mambo Dance Team, who danced in the “Cuban Pete” method by Mambo Master Dancer Barbara Craddock.

Other performances included Ritmos Peru and Incas Wasi, the South Wind Jazz Ensemble, dance instructor Joe Tessier, Puerto Rican concert pianist Adlan Cruz, Iba A Se featuring Danny Rivera Jr., dancing duo Stacey & Lucy Lopez and music by the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra led by Tito Rodriguez, Jr.

Sponsors for the festival include SpringHill Suites, Jonjen Creations, Machado and Rivera Media, Centerline Web Design and Consulting, Michel Licensing, Ironside Press, and Banov Architecture and Construction.

Anyone interested in helping Sebastian Charter Junior High raise funds for their new school should call (772) 388-8838, send a donation to 782 Wave Street, Sebastian, FL 32958, or visit www.scjh.org.

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