The Goddess of Ritmo Smiles Again

The 2003 Oxnard Salsa Festival just gets better!

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: July 28, 2003

The Goddess of Ritmo Smiles Again

On a simply perfect Southern Califas week end, the Goddess of Ritmo once again smiled down on the beautiful West Coast township of Oxnard, California, July 26th & 27th for the 2003 Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival. I'm happy to report that the Oxnard tradition of love, music, food, drink, people, dancing and fun is alive and well in the "Barrio by the Sea".

Over 45,000 Gente attended the Festival this week end, to celebrate and share the blessing of Alma Latino in the most colorful and joyous manner. As I write this, my feet are killing me from 2 days of dancing, but I would gladly do it all again tomorrow!

With a massive and superior sound system that far exceeded last year's, the streets of Downtown Oxnard were alive with the sweet sounds of Salsa and Latin Jazz for two days, with visitors from all over the World enjoying an ambience like no other, and the wonderful people of Oxnard making us all feel welcome. Once again, the beautiful aroma of comida Latino in the air, the explosion of colors & art, the laughter of familias and happy children, thousands of my beloved Raza, and some of the best dancing music in the World told me I was in the right place at the right time. I host one of the most popular Oldies but Goodies Radio shows on the World Wide Web, but this week end I took a break to enjoy some rightous Latin Soul.
Here's the play by play:

Kicking off the celebration on the first day were Ventura's very own Nuestro, the ever popular Chicano group and Festival favorite for the past 10 years, who sparked up the crowd and easily got things moving with their excellent Salsa and Latin Jazz music that dares you to sit still. Afterwards, I had the chance to interview Mr. Ruben Palazuelos, the founder & leader of the group. Here is a man truly in love. In love with life, in love with his woman, and in love with his music. His loves are reflected in his music, and his music is the kind you want to dance to and hear over & over. Judging from the dancing and applause, why they're THE festival favorite is easily evident. They're GOOD!

Next, the L.A. Salsa kids, a talented dance group of teenagers ranging from 13 to 18 years old, put on a "wow" performance that inspired many young people in the crowd to get on the floor and give Salsa a try for the first time.

Making their first Salsa Festival appearance , the Louie Cruz Beltran Latin Ensemble came on next and kept the dance floor full with their hot Latin Jazz/mambo/Cha cha /samba sounds. This talented group made a lot of new fans that day, and it's is hoped they'll be back next year. Lot of talent in these homies from Bakersfield, Califas.

As the sun began to set, and temperatures began to cool, the California King of Salsa/Latin Soul & Sensuality, Mr. Antonio Madrigal, came out and fired up the crowd with his trademark Salsa Brava lessons. With high energy, enthusiasm, sensuality & professional dancing skill ( or what is commonly known as "ganas" among the Gente), Antonio "broke it down" for a lot of us with 2 left feet, and guaranteed the dance floor would remain full for the remainder of the Festival. Smiles were infectious, and many new Salsa dancers were born that day. As always, Antonio drew "oohs" and "ahhs" from the females in the crowd with his smooth moves, which in turn motivated the guys to get up on the floor and learn the same moves. You should have been there.

Last year's Festival closers, and heavily requested favorite this year, Leslie Paula and the Latin Soul Band came out next to close the first day in hot style. Leslie and her group kept the dance floor "elbow to elbow" crowded with her hot,sizzling Salsa sounds except for a brief break in her set where she sang a beautiful & heart touching rendition of "Happy Birthday" for the Host and Emcee of the Festival, Oxnard's very own beloved Pablo Ortiz. A standing ovation was well deserved. Pablo has been instrumental in making the Salsa Festival more than a local event and bigger every year, and many festival returnees loudly expressed their appreciation. Leslie took it from there, and we all danced to the setting sun. Even Pablo got in on the last dance!

The next day began like yesterday never ended. The group Tres Dos, with special guest legendary L.A. trumpeteer Bobby Loya, opened up with their Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban fusion rythyms, filling the dance floor before noon!(Wow! and on Sunday morning!)

Nothing follows a hard act like a hard act itself. To the delight of an enthusiastic & loud crowd, Antonio Madrigal made it back on the scene with more high energy-suave salsa dance lessons and then a Salsa dance contest that invited the crowd to join in while seven talented couples battled it out on the dance floor. Yours truly and a lovely lady named Norma were privvy to have been asked by Antonio to help judge the contest, but the whipped up crowd did the work, and the fun worked up to frenzy.

The L.A. Mambo Combo then came out and busted it wide open with their hard hitting Latin jazz/Afro-Cuban/Tropi-jazz and Salsa sounds that had the dance floor overflowing and people dancing all over the park. The cool, pleasant ocean breezes that bless Oxnard like an angel's kiss were evident as the dancing was non-stop despite bright, beautiful sunshine. Again, as I checked out the scene, smiles were infectious. People all over seemed to be having a great time. I met fans from all over Califas, as well as Salseros from different parts of the World, and a lot of good people from Oxnard.

Rumba Salera, a popular dance troupe from Oxnard, gave the locals some pride & love by putting on a dazzling Salsa dance exhibition, which drew loud applause & approval.

Closing the Festival honors went to one of the most popular and well known Salsa bands in the Country , The Susie Hansen Salsa Band. With some dazzling violin solos and great group vocals, the superb sound system at it's peak, and the entire park becoming one great big dance floor, Oxnard Salsa Festival 2003 ended a huge success, and one Gente could be proud to be part of.

I had more than a great time, I had an experience! Mi Gente, en mi tierra, con musica, juntos y feliz......We should all live like that!

See you again next year, Oxnard, and thank you !!!

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme spins the finest cruising sounds/Oldies but Goodies on the world wide web live, every Thursday at 6:oopm (L.A. time) only on www.kclafm.com. His website: http://www.frankiefirme.50megs.com

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