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Booming Fiesta Broadway Celebrates 10th Anniversary

April 22, 1999|ALISA VALDES-RODRIGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

More than 300,000 Latin music and food lovers are expected to visit Sunday's AT&T Fiesta Broadway, making the downtown Los Angeles event once again the largest single-day festival in the state, and the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the nation.

In its 10th anniversary, the fiesta has grown beyond the dreams of its founders, who patiently convinced city managers in 1989 that a Latino street festival would not turn into a violent melee, as some had feared, according to Estella Lopez, one of three co-founders of the event.

In fact, the fiesta--which features musical performances on five stages and requires that 36 downtown blocks be closed to traffic--has blossomed into a national celebration, thanks to a two-hour Telemundo special scheduled to air the evening of May 5 in 48 markets, including Puerto Rico. This year, the new Radio Unica radio network will also broadcast the event in 52 U.S. cities.

Because of the high visibility, three notable musical acts have chosen the festival as the platform for major announcements. Two-time Grammy-winning Mexican pop band La Mafia, which announced it was breaking up earlier this year, has chosen Fiesta Broadway for its final L.A. performance. The group will perform on the McDonald's stage at 2:10 p.m. and the AT&T stage at 3:45 p.m. Chris Perez, the widower of slain tejano singer Selena, chose the fiesta for the debut performance of his new rock group, the Chris Perez Band. It will perform on the McDonald's stage at 4 p.m. And Gipsyland, a new band created by Kiko, lead singer of the Gipsy Kings, will be on the Target stage at 3:35 p.m.

Also marking the growth of the festival, which is free, McDonald's Corp. has signed on as a presenting sponsor, alongside corporate heavies such as Mobil Oil, Aetna and Target/Mervyn's. More than 100 corporate sponsors are on board, according to Peter Bellas, vice president for marketing and sales for All Access Entertainment, which has produced the event for the last six years. The group expects to raise $1.5 million, slightly more than the $1.4 million in projected expenses. A portion of the remaining money will be given to the Mexican Cultural Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles and headed by Leticia Quezada.

This is the first year the J. Paul Getty Museum has joined the sponsor ranks, providing a children's play park at the corner of 3rd and Broadway.

The growth of Fiesta Broadway has made comparisons to Miami's famed Calle Ocho festival inevitable. But where the Miami festival caters to Caribbean tastes, Fiesta Broadway remains largely a celebration of Mexican cultures--demonstrated best by this year's choice of norteno troubadours Los Tigres del Norte, whose corridos detail lives of Mexicans here and in Mexico, as grand marshals.

Other notable Mexican music performers include teen mariachi diva Nydia Rojas, who wrote a theme song, "Nuestra Fiesta" (Our Party), for this year's event; pop singer Paulina Rubio; local band Mariachi Sol de America; pop singer Fey; ranchera hunk Pablo Montero; and pop singer Ana Barbara. For diversity there's merengue-house band Ilegales; guy-groups C-Note and MDO; or Puerto Rican popstress Millie.

Attractions include food vendors, a health fair and a sports expo, with players from the Anaheim Angels and the L.A. Sparks.

For those wondering why Fiesta Broadway, which bills itself as a Cinco de Mayo celebration, does not take place closer to the May 5 date it celebrates, the answer is simple: Its organizers do not want to pull revelers away from the dozens of community events planned in the area for the holiday, which celebrates Mexico's defeat of the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

BE THERE

AT&T Fiesta Broadway, Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. (gates open at 11 a.m.), along Broadway, between 1st and 11th streets. Free. (310) 914-0015.

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