Love, Music and Dancing by the Sea

Cutting the rug at the 2007 Oxnard Salsa Festival

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: August 4, 2007

Love, Music and Dancing by the Sea

Ooooh~ wee! Let me tell you something!

The Summer's just hit the halfway point, and the West Coast of California is the place to be. Good weather, beautiful people from all corners of the earth connecting and communicating, so much music and dancing, love and laughter, I don't know how we can stand it being so free sometimes...

...because of GOD, and our brave men & women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces around the World, sometimes I just have to take a few seconds to look up towards heaven and say "Thank you!".

That being said, let me tell you about the latest celebration of life in the Land of 1000 Dances, the 2007 Oxnard salsa Festival.

Only an hour's drive north of L.A., this past weekend I was once again honored to join up with over 50,000 close friends of hosts Mr. Pablo Ortiz and the simply gorgeous Ms. Elizabeth Alvarez, as they welcomed the World to the West Coast Summer Salsa music mecca that is Oxnard, California, for the 14th annual 2 day event held at Downtown Plaza Park.

Hosting the event for the last 12th year of this 14 year old celebration of life, "Mr. Oxnard" himself, Gold Coast Broadcasting's Pablo Ortiz also took the opportunity to celebrate another birthday.

"I'm celebrating my birthday with so many beautiful people, on a beautiful weekend, in a beautiful city, and with some of the best music on earth for 2 days! By the grace of GOD, I'm probably one of the luckiest guys around," an enthusiastic and young spirited Pablo told me as we surveyed the large crowd. His smile seemed to just make the sunshine brighter as so many friends and well wishers came up to him and wished him a happy birthday.

Starting off the show, and setting mood for the weekend, Bakersfield's favorite son and one of the West Coast Latin music world's most popular stars, Mr. LOUIE CRUZ BELTRAN and his powerful Latin Jazz Orchestra opened up with their hard hitting sounds, and filled the dance floor immediately. Without hesitation, Pablo Ortiz and Elizabeth Alvarez started the dance off, and were soon joined by several smiling couples as we all danced in sparkling sunshine and cool sea breezes. Always a crowd pleaser, Louie called up San Fernando's Ernie "El Torpedo" Medina up on stage for a sensual and mellow version of everybody's favorite bolero, "Sabor a mi", that got everybody around the park going "ooooh"...it was that good, that early on a Saturday morning.

Next, Tabaco y Ron, a heavy brass & percussion orchestra, busted it wide open with their hot, East Coast style, Salsa-Mambo sounds and tantalizing Spanish lyrics of love and life that got all the many New Yorkers in the crowd happily homesick. By now, the crowd had just about reached capacity, and dancing broke out all over the park.

Next, I was once again honored to introduce on stage my friend, who's also known as the West Coast Chicana Queen of Salsa & Latin Soul, Ms LESLIE PAULA. Leslie strutted her stuff up on stage to a thunderous ovation from thousands of fans as she was joined by her father, legendary percussionist Miguel Gutierrez, and the Latin Soul Band in her trademark high octane stage performance that had the dance floor overflowing, and the entire park undulating in rhythm. At 75, Miguel showed where the multi-talented Leslie "got her stuff", as he also strutted his stuff and sang his heart out for the admiring crowd with the energy of a teenager. Proudly announcing the release of his first CD in over 20 years, Miguel & the band did a couple of cuts as the beautiful and ever smiling, singing, & dancing LESLIE PAULA added a touch of class and ritmo to the moment.

Taken up in the moment, I spotted Pablo Ortiz just kicking up dust and boogalooing hard backstage, while Elizabeth Alvarez chewed rug on the crowded dance floor. The party was on till sunset!

The next morning brought out an even larger crowd, as Santa Barbara's SOMOS SON started the party right after church. A large and impressive Latin Jazz/Salsa group, these guys made their Oxnard Salsa Festival appearance in style.

Next, becoming a favorite at the Salsa Festival 3 years in a row, ORQUESTA CHARANGOA wowed everybody and rocked the downtown area that even had people in the beer gardens breaking out into dance. Their music was so soulful and powerful,that I saw a lot of Daddies and Mommies start picking up their kids and start dancing.

I was taken aback by a young lady named Avanci, who was about 6 years old, and she looked so happy and smiling dancing with her Daddy. Her smile was one that reflected family happiness and harmony as Mommy and a whole lot of others looked on with approval. My Lady and I were caught by her innocent, joyful smile of childhood from a distance, and the look of deep pride in her Daddy's eyes as he danced with his little girl for the World to see.

This, I told them both as I introduced myself, is WHY the Salsa Festival happens bigger and better every year. The sense of Latino love and harmony, with music playing in the air, while thousands of people enjoy food, drink, art, and each other's company despite being strangers... struck me as utopian. My only regret is that it has to end at sundown.

Living with my regret, my Lady and I left Oxnard and the 2007 Salsa Festival with sore feet, arms full of souvenirs, art, and music as the sun began to set, and the outstanding music of OPA OPA filled the air with Ritmo.

"One more dance!" my Lady said...and she got what she wanted, of course. At no time, did any of the music slow heartbeats down all weekend, and OPA OPA let everybody know~ "The rhythm gots you, and ain't never lettin' go!"

As we left, one of my last sights was Pablo Ortiz, still smiling, still dancing...
...when he has a birthday party, he doesn't mess around !

Thanks again, Oxnard! See you next year!

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone, and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul. frankiefirme.50megs.com

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