A star dedication ceremony on Friday in Union City kicked off the local 2009 Cuban Day Parade and Festival for the weekend. Saturday brought a festival at Schuetzen Park in North Bergen, and on Sunday, thousands of Hudson County residents watched the Cuban Day Parade.
The parade marched from Bergenline Avenue and 79th Street in North Bergen, through Guttenberg and West New York, and concluded at Bergenline Avenue and 43rd Street in Union City.
“It turned out wonderful,” said Emilio Del Valle, the president of the Celia Cruz Park Committee, who was instrumental in organizing the weekend’s events. “I think it was one of our biggest parades ever.” He said that so many people came to see the 14-float procession that the crowd spilled beyond the sidewalks.
Over the past 10 years, the parade has become a very important event for the local community.
“We do it to express our culture, our dance, our music, and to show people what can be done in a free country,” he said. He added that the event is also to give thanks to the United States for providing an environment where Cubans could flourish.
“The meaning of the parade is what we have been able to accomplish in this country as Cuban-Americans, and we thank this country for being able to express ourselves in this way,” said Del Valle.
Some proceeds from the parade, said Del Valle, will help sponsor two kids with muscular dystrophy going to compete in the next Special Olympics.
At Celia Cruz Park, at the corner of Bergenline Avenue and 31st Street in Union City, community leaders presented Cuban dance and music legends with a star in the Walk of Fame. Among those honored were singing duo Hansel and Raul, musician Isidro Infante, Javier Vasquez of La Sonora Matancera, Olga Chorens of Olga and Tony, and radio and TV show host Polito Vega. Three Tropicana dancers, Guillermina Averhoff, Guillermo Van Denedes, and Alberto Morgan, accepted a star on behalf of the group.
Del Valle said that the Walk of Fame has become somewhat of a tourist attraction.
“People go there and take pictures with the stars,” he said.
Now that the local festivities are over, Del Valle speculated that they will someday be held way outside Hudson County.
“We celebrate Cuba, Cuba’s independence,” said Del Valle. “One day we will be doing it in Cuba.”