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ARTS and ENTERTAINMENT : Stage Set for L.A. Fiesta Broadway on April 29


Ten blocks of Broadway in downtown Los Angeles will be the stage for a lively festival celebrating Latino music and culture on Sunday, April 29.

L.A. Fiesta Broadway, which will kick off Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Los Angeles, is expected to attract half a million people to the street from noon to dusk, said Estela Lopez, one of the event's organizers.

"The sidewalks will move to a Latin beat," said Lopez, executive director of Miracle on Broadway, an organization that aims to revitalize the Broadway shopping and movie theater district. "This is going to be the best block party people have ever seen."

The festival, which is expected to cost more than $1 million to produce, will bring together dozens of Latino entertainers performing on seven separate stages on the street, which will be blocked off to traffic from Temple Street on the north to Olympic Boulevard on the south.

Modeled after the popular Calle Ocho street party in Miami, the local fest promises Latino entertainment and a variety of foods, exhibits, arts and crafts workshops and sampling booths.

Entertainers scheduled for the event include singers, mariachi and music groups from Los Angeles, Mexico and throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

The festival organizers' goal is to make the event the largest "Cinco de Mayo celebration in the country," said Emilio Nicolas Jr., general manager of KMEX-TV, which is co-producing the event along with the Univision Spanish-language network.

"This festival will show off our culture," Nicolas said. Deputy Mayor Ed Avila agreed, saying, "This is going to be a world-class event."

The Los Angeles City Council approved co-sponsorship of the event and will help provide security for it, officials said. About $300,000 in city funds will be used for staffing, said a festival coordinator, John Echeveste.

The fiesta will be the first major Los Angeles street festival since the 1986 L.A. Street Scene, a city-sponsored event highlighting the region's cultural diversity. The Street Scene was discontinued after a nine-year run due to financial problems and scattered violence during the 1986 event.

Among factors that contributed to the violence, authorities said, was the failure of a punk rock band to appear as scheduled. Police also had to grapple with drunk and rowdy fans who had been drawn by punk and new wave bands. The violence over two nights in 1986 included a fatal shooting and four stabbings.

Fiesta Broadway organizers said they will be taking stringent security precautions to avoid outbreaks of violence. Plans include an allocation of 350 Los Angeles police officers and 220 private security guards, Echeveste said.

"We've taken a lot of precautions and really learned from Street Scene," Echeveste said. "All the acts will be family-oriented so they won't attract the wrong element. And it will be limited to the daylight hours."

"When you go into the late night hours, like Street Scene did, the possibility of problems is more likely," Nicolas said.

Nicolas added that alcohol consumption at Fiesta Broadway will be restricted to well-guarded, gated areas on side streets.

Lopez said she hopes the biggest concern for participants of Festival Broadway will be finding a parking space within walking distance of the event.

"We encourage people to take the RTD," Lopez said.

Live coverage of the event will be telecast on Channel 34. The station and Univision will telecast a taped special of the festival during the following week. The Univision show is expected to be aired on 400 network affiliates and to be telecast in 13 Latin American countries, Nicolas said.

Fiesta corporate sponsors include Procter & Gamble, AT&T, Kern's Juices and Acapulco restaurants. If the event makes a profit, proceeds will benefit the Miracle on Broadway project. "This event could crystallize so many of the hopes we have had for the return of Broadway," Lopez said.

Cinco de Mayo is one of the year's biggest celebrations for the region's Mexican-origin population and other Latinos. It commemorates the victory of Mexican troops over French soldiers on May 5, 1862, in the central Mexican town of Puebla.


Among artists scheduled to appear at L.A. Fiesta Broadway are Mexican entertainers Jose Javier Solis, Maria de Lourdes, Fernando Allende, Beatriz Adriana, Alejandra Guzman, and the groups Garibaldi, Posdata, and Los Humildes.

Also appearing will be Laureano Brizuela of Argentina, Menudo of Puerto Rico, Angela Carrasco from the Dominican Republic and Willie Chirino from Miami. Among local singer and groups on the program are Alitzah Wiener; Genaro Rodriguez; Rudy Regalado Orchestra; Mariachi Sol de Mexico, Mariachi Los Camperos and Mariachi Los Galleros; Danza Mexicana de Los Angeles, and the groups Laberinto and Man-Go Band.

Other singers, groups and dance troupes will join the schedule as the fiesta nears and there may be last-minute cancellations.

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