The third annual Ritchie Valens Festival with carnival rides, folk dancers and a musical competition featuring local bands kicks off this evening.
The three-day festival at the Ritchie Valens Recreation Center is sponsored by the city's Recreation and Parks and Cultural Affairs departments and Councilman Richard Alarcon. Admission to the festival is free, but there is a charge for the carnival rides.
Chuck Chaboor, recreation center director, said this year's festival would be the biggest to date.
"All of the bands are from the San Fernando Valley and many are from this area," Chaboor said.
Formerly called Paxton Park, the recreation center is named in honor of singer Ritchie Valens, who grew up in Pacoima. Although he was only 17, Valens already had several hit songs before he was killed along with fellow rock singers Buddy Holly and "Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson, in a 1959 plane crash in Iowa.
The carnival will begin operating at 4 p.m. and the festival officially opens at a 6 o'clock ceremony. From 6 to 11 p.m., the first five bands in the competition will play.
At the end of the weekend, a panel of music industry judges will select the top band, competition organizer Daniel Rodriguez said.
"People are really hyped up for this. Win or lose, everyone will win with this because of the exposure they get," Rodriguez said.
The festival will continue from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Folk and cultural dancers will perform from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, and the final five bands in the music competition will play between 6 and 11 p.m.
Earlier Saturday in the park auditorium, free screenings of "Space Jam" and "La Bamba," the Ritchie Valens story, are scheduled for noon and 2 p.m., respectively.