Generally, what happens at any festival that offers free entrance could range from one negative and unforeseen event to another, motivating its organizers, on many occasions, to run for the gate, never to be seen again. In Tampa, Florida, the case was totally the opposite, and from what I experienced firsthand, it was the most organized and enjoyable day I have had in a long time!
This was the fifth year that Maritza Astorquiza and Alex Cora, who have been at the helm of Coda Sounds USA for ten years, offered the annual Conga Caliente Festival, free of charge to the general public, in gratitude for their support at other musical events throughout the year 2008.
This year's festival, conducted on a beautiful Sunday morning at Al Lopez Park, began promptly with the scorching merengue sounds of an old friend from my RMM/Merengazo days, Rey Perdomo, who started pumping the blood of the participating public, as fans flooded in from all directions to listen to his hits.
Ommy Cardona is a Puerto Rican salsero whose music I have been playing regularly through my radio shows, and it was a pleasure to meet this energetic performer, as was meeting the Colombian duo of folkloric trovadores Raton & Chocolate, who delighted the crowd with their whimsical rhythms and songs.
When vocalist Van Lester arrived, it was like getting together with a relative I had not seen in years, and he even remembered my daughter Leslie, who accompanied me to the festival, along with Michael and my grandkids Mia Atiana and Michael.
Van Lester's performance took the event to new heights, with some well chosen classics that ignited the crowd for...