For the past 10 years, the Latin Salsa Music Festival has made a cultural impact on our area. Through 11 events, the Latin Salsa Music Festival brought live salsa music, dancing, food vendors, craft vendors and children’s activities to downtown Fort Walton Beach.
Sadly, this festival will not return for 2019.
The first Caribbean flavored event, which led to the creation of the Latin Salsa Music Festival, took place at the Eglin AFB All Ranks Beach Park pavilions on Okaloosa Island in June 2008 and attracted nearly 500 Salsa music lovers.
In 2009 the event was first held at the Fort Walton Landing Park where is attracted approximately 1,500 attendees and set the tone for the next 8 years.
The founder of the Latin Salsa Music Festival is José García (or Mr. José as I have called him since a child). I’ve had the privilege of knowing him and his family for most of my life. His daughter, Lydia, and I played drums together while at Bruner and Fort Walton Beach High School.
Different cultures can be found in Fort Walton Beach and the Northwest Florida Boricuas Ausentes Inc.’s annual event certainly shined a much needed light on the Caribbean/Latin cultures.
Talking with the Northwest Florida Daily News last year José said,
“It’s about culture. That culture is what drives me to bring it to an area that needs it and has a lot of people that can benefit from it. It makes me remember what back home (Puerto Rico) is all about.”
Through the 11 events since its beginning in 2008, as many as 5,000 festival fans from all walks of life, including families on vacation, have gathered at the Landing to enjoy great live salsa music, entertainment, Caribbean food and arts & crafts vendors coming from hundreds of miles away.
However, due to the lack of solid event sponsor(s) the event will not be held in 2019. During my conversation with José he made it clear that should the situation or conditions change, the event organizers would gladly resume the festival. This year, and regretfully for the the foreseeable future, the Latin Salsa Music Festival is no more.
On his Facebook page, José wrote,
Rest assured, my family and I are very proud to have brought a bit of Caribbean/Latin cultures and flavors to a region that the Hispanic community and friends had been craving for since way before our arrival to the beautiful Emerald Coast in 1981.
But, the time has come to take a break in the production and presentation of this event and to try new ventures…
To the dozen of businesses and sponsors whom made this event possible for the community, to the hundreds of dedicated volunteers whose valuable time was so much appreciated during the last decade presenting the event, to our numerous participating craft, merchandise and food vendors; our heartfelt and big THANKS for the support, dedication and memories shared! You’ll never be forgotten.
The producers send a heartfelt shoutout to its benefactor, AMI KIDS of the Emerald Coast, for their support.
Thank you José for bringing such as amazing event to Fort Walton Beach over the last 10 years!
Did you ever attend the Latin Salsa Music Festival? Hit me up! Let me know what you loved about it!