Colombian Independence Day Festival returning to Overpeck County Park

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Cumbia and salsa music will be heard this weekend at Overpeck County Park when the annual Colombian Independence Day Festival returns Sunday after it was canceled last year because of lack of sponsors and vendors.

But a Go Fund Me web page was launched this week to raise $5,000 to cover some of the expenses of the festival, which costs about $48,000, said Jorge Meneses, president of Club Colombia USA, which organizes the event. He said rising expenses, including insurance costs, and the loss of past sponsors created a need to continue to collect money.

“You always need money,’’ Meneses said.

Meneses, a former councilman and mayor in Hackensack, said the cost of the festival makes him wonder whether it’s worthwhile to continue it, or to use money the organization raises for other causes, like charities in Colombia or for organizations that help children here.

He said in the past because of Colombia’s known drug trafficking industry and other negative news from the country, the festival was a way to promote Colombian values in addition to the country’s dances, art and traditional foods.

“We are going to revisit the festival and decide if it’s really worth it,’’ Meneses said. “It’s becoming very difficult, because insurance is becoming very expensive, and all the vendors, for example, have to have insurance, so it’s even more difficult these days.”

The festival was first held in 1969 in Hackensack, and since then has grown by drawing other Latino groups as well as members of ethnic groups with roots in other parts of the world. In 2014, Club Colombia USA moved the event to Overpeck County Park to make it more of a countywide event rather than a Hackensack one.

The club, Meneses said, didn’t hold a festival one year in the 1990s because of violence and crime in the Colombian city of Medellin.

Bergen County is home to about 20,000 people of Colombian ancestry, according to 2014 estimates from the American Community Survey.

Meneses, said he expected the festival, to draw about 3,000 residents from throughout Bergen County to the park. A music band from Colombia is scheduled to perform and kiosks serving typical Colombian food will be on hand. He said organizers planned to have a painting activity for children.

Osvaldo Espinosa, of Ridgefield Park, said he used to go to the festival when it was held in Hackensack, and said he planned on stopping by Sunday.

“I love to pass by and taste some food and see typical dances from our country,’’ Espinosa said. “It’s a good activity to share with family and friends.”

Espinosa said he would like the festival to continue, but says that if there aren’t enough sponsors, then he worries that the quality of the festival would be impacted.

The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at Overpeck County Park.

read more about it at NorthJersey.com

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