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Colombian food, music at Fair & Expo Center’s bicentennial celebration

LOCAL COLOMBIANS WILL CELEBRATE 200 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE FOR THEIR COUNTRY WITH A HUGE FIESTA AT THE FAIR & EXPO CENTER

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Colombians in South Florida won’t have to travel to their native land to celebrate their country’s bicentennial.

Sounds of traditional cumbia music and the smell of arepas will fill the air at the 22nd annual Colombian Independence Day Festival at the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo Center, 10901 SW 24th St., from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

The festival marks the South American country’s bicentennial independence celebration.

General admission is $25. Children under 10 years of age enter free. Parking is also free. There will be bounce houses, clowns and face-painting for children.

Hernando Miranda, production manager for Congo de Oro, the company producing the event, said the festive affair is a way for Colombians and an international crowd to unite.

“We are partygoers,” he said in a phone interview. “We enjoy food, music and drinks.”

Colombia claimed independence from Spain on July 20, 1810.

The musical talent includes headliner Daddy Yankee, a Puerto Rican reggaeton superstar. Other performers hitting the stage include salsa group Grupo Niche of Colombia. Jorge Celedon, also of Colombia, will play traditional vallenato folk tunes from his homeland.

The festival was founded in 1988 by Milton Miranda, Hernando’s brother.

“At the time, the Colombian community was growing,” Hernando said. “And Colombia has been known to host the best festivals, so we decided to celebrate it in Miami.”

A portion of the event proceeds will help several nonprofit organizations like Read2Succeed. There will be more than 30 local and Colombian vendors selling traditional items such as sombreros vueltiaos and jewelry from the South American country. Alcoholic beverages like Aguardiente Antioqueño will also be available.

While food from across Latin America — such as Nicaragua and Argentina — will be for sale, Colombian food will take center stage with offerings such as corn cake arepas and bandeja paisa, which includes rice, red beans, steak, sweat fried plantains, pork rinds and fried eggs.

“One of the highlights of the festival is the variety of food,” said Hernando, who is from Barranquilla, Colombia.

Orlando Mosquera, owner of Raspaos eatery, which has two locations in Kendall and Miami Lakes, has been a vendor at the festival for seven years. It is a chance to promote his product of snow cones filled with natural fruits and condensed milk, he said.

“We get to set an image for our product and for our business,” said Mosquera, who also sells tamales. “It’s the most lucrative part for us.”

Attending the event is also a way to reconnect with his fellow Colombians.

“I get together with my people,” he said. “It is a chance to bring back memories.”

For more information, visit www.cdoproductions.net.

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