Calgary has a lot of events to boast about during its short summer recess. Alongside the world famous Stampede, now through the gate on 101 occasions, there is the Folk Festival, plus other musical events show casing blues, reggae and jazz talents from around the world.
But the hottest outdoor festival is Expo Latino, where the Hispanic community from the city and beyond celebrate and share their passion for food, dance and music. After 17 years in the running, this has become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, Latino cultural expression in Canada. As usual, Prince’s Island was the venue, although looking somewhat dustier and worn down from the flood damage that hit Calgary in June.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi was there to support and enjoy the event and was a strong contender for my best “dancin’ shoes” award (he was wearing some cool purple Converse All Stars) but got pipped at the post by some even cooler reds, blues and sandals.
Topping a fine line-up on Sunday night was Grammy Award winning Elvis Crespo getting up on stage as well as off stage amongst the noisy, appreciative crowd. Fito Blanko, from Panama via Toronto, joined Elvis to end the set in a duo. The previous evening saw his old band mates from Grupo Mania, all camo-clad and performing some top notch, high energy merengue.
The Mariachi Nacional de Mexico had a lot of support from their national contingent (and many others) singing their heads off to some classic ranchera numbers. Wil Campa y Su Gran Union brought along some splendid salsa. And to finish off the Sunday entertainment was Grupo La Maquina from El Salvador, playing some great Techno Cumbia and other dance tunes with their front five looking oh so cool, kitted out in matching blue and white trackies.
La Maquina kept us on our feet, dancing -and jumping for the CD’s, T-shirts and Salvadorian flags they pitched into the audience.
Once again, this was a great bringing together of the Latino community and everyone else who loves this culture. Thanks to all the dancers, musicians, DJ Chico, Rob Zen and others, Carmen Galvez and all the other organizers for making it happen. Get your dancing shoes dusted off and ready for 2014- maybe Calgary’s Expo Latino will be even hotter!