It may or may not be the best, but in terms of sheer size Sunday’s musical triple-header will undoubtedly qualify as the largest showcase of Latin pop ever staged in the United States.
Organizers expect more than 750,000 people to see more than 100 performers--including such big names as La Mafia, Los Tigres del Norte and Ricky Martin--in performances stretching from downtown Los Angeles to South El Monte.
The fifth annual edition of “L.A. Fiesta Broadway,” rivaled in scope only by Miami’s annual “Gran Festival de la Calle Ocho” (“Eighth Street Fiesta”), will take place on nine stages on the portion of Broadway between First Street and Olympic Boulevard, with 60 artists performing before an expected crowd of 500,000.
Two other major celebrations will take place at the same time: The banda and nortena showcase “Primero de Mayo” festival on the grounds of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, sponsored by radio station KLAX (97.9 FM) and Fonovisa Records, is expected to draw 200,000.
And the Cinco de Mayo fiesta at Whittier Narrows in South El Monte, sponsored by sister radio stations KLVE (107.5 FM) and KTNQ (1020 AM), is hoping for a crowd of anywhere from 35,000 to 70,000.
The scheduling of the three events on the same day was a coincidence, according to organizers, but all parties involved are confident that each event’s uniqueness will ensure the expected success.
“These are three different events targeted to three specific types of audiences,” said Tom Castro, president of El Dorado, a company that is a major sponsor of “L.A. Fiesta Broadway.” Other major sponsors are All Access Entertainment, Miracle on Broadway, AT&T; and the City of Los Angeles.
Miami-based television network Univision, which sponsored the four previous editions, this time will film the event and produce two separate programs for national and local airing later in the year. El Dorado owns Los Angeles’ new Spanish-language radio station KMQA (98.3 FM), known as La Maquina.
While “L.A. Fiesta Broadway” has the more eclectic lineup-- banda , romantic ballads, salsa, pop, folkloric ballets and even rock en espanol --the fiesta at Whittier Narrows has a more limited musical range, emphasizing solo singers and pop groups.
KLAX’s event at the Sports Arena concentrates on the banda and nortena sound that has kept the station in the No. 1 spot in the Arbitron ratings since the fall of 1992.
Both “L.A. Fiesta Broadway” and KLVE’s Whittier Narrows show are free events, but don’t count the Sports Arena out: Despite the $7 ticket price, last year the event’s 16 bandas attracted an estimated 200,000. This year there will be 21 bandas .
“We expect a similar or even greater turnout, but even if 50,000 show up it will be a tremendous success,” said Alfredo Rodriguez, KLAX’s general manager.
How do the talent rosters compare artistically?
Don’t expect to see a sample of the finest Latin artists in any one of the three events. But mixed among good sellers, hot new faces and local unknowns are some truly significant artists. None of the organizers can claim to have the strongest lineup.
“L.A. Fiesta Broadway’s” bill offers salseros Marc Anthony and Colombia’s exciting Grupo Niche, arguably the best of a long list that also includes the legendary Cruz Lizarraga’s traditional Banda del Recodo, among others, performing from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Sports Arena event has nortena heroes Los Tigres del Norte as its main headliners, but the act to watch is up-and-coming nortena group Los Tiranos del Norte. The event will take place on the outdoor grounds of the Sports Arena, with the performances also being shown on a giant TV screen inside the arena. The music starts at 9 a.m. and will last until 7 p.m.
The fiesta at Whittier Narrows, the smallest of the three, has booked such major stars as Venezuelan Jose Luis Rodriguez, Ricky Martin, Los Mier and Pandora. The event, scheduled to run between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., also offers free parking.
Beyond the music, some are looking to the triple-header to prove that the Latino market in Los Angeles is even larger than assumed.
“It will show the incredible potential of our market,” said Humberto Hernandez, station manager of La Maquina. “Only in Los Angeles can you have three events like these, and you can rest assured all three will be packed.”