Chicago’s expansive El Gran Festival Colombiano/Colombian Fest, a Midwest Latinx favorite, to return July 16-18, 2021.
Chicagoan Jorge Ortega was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. He is the Colombian Fest, founder and director with 25 years of experience in event management. Yet in all that time he has only had to cancel two events up until now. Once, due to a hurricane and the other, due to 911 for a projected 75,000 person Mexican Festival at Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium. Sadly, the family owned Ortega Brothers LLC. event management announces the scuttling of the July 2020 Festival due to the Covid virus concerns. It is rescheduled for July 16, 17 & 18 2021.
Ortega Brothers will continue to work with the 40th Ward and neighbors towards the possibilities of hosting the Colombian Fest 2021 at a new location; Mather Park in West Ridge, Chicago. In lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic we believe that it is imperative for Chicago to establish a feasible strategy to prevent another outbreak before any mass gatherings can be held and once safety can be assured. Mather Park will better accommodate the enthusiastic attendance by both Colombian and other culture lovers.
After 5 years of explosive growth from a Forest Preserve “PICO” sound-system party & picnic to a world class Latinx Festival taking place at Copernicus Center and Kelvyn Park; to offering stellar music acts like Grupo Niche and the late Pastor Lopez, the fest has been characterized as being extremely safe and encourages participation of entire families by offering food, artisans, kid zones, circus acts and carnival for younger attendees as well as a Festival tradition of a Gran Parada (Grand Parade) where people and families of all Latin American countries are invited to join in their traditional costumes and special family hats led by the CONGO GRANDE of El Gran Colombiano Fest around the grounds on Sunday, the last day of the festival.
The festival broadly appeals to international audiences. It presents both folkloric traditions such as Toto La Momposina and Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, as well as the newest sounds of the region like Champeta Kings to international salsa headliners like Puerto Rico’s Willie Colon and Dominican Republic’s Godfather and King of Merengue Johnny Ventura “El Caballo” who triumphantly closed the 2019 Colombian Festival after a 25 year absence from Chicago. ( fyi: Mr. Ventura is now recovering from Covid 19) “ The festival offers a great opportunity to enjoy and discover the rich musical and cultural heritage of a great Latin American nation.” says Jorge
Ortega. He continues, “From the Pacific coast to the interior plains and mountains to the shores of the Caribbean, Colombia has a huge diversity of cultures made up of mixtures of Spanish, African and indigenous peoples.”
The Ortega Brothers are immediately pivoting to mount world class monthly live streams online on multiple platforms as well as meaningful tools and resources. (You can download a free 15 page coloring book of Colombian icons for the kid in you). They are planning a live stream concert for Colombian Independence Day celebration/ 20 de Julio/July 20 from Colombia and Chicago featuring some of the fest’s past and present performers along with Chicago’s best musicians and artists. Stay tuned for lineup.
International Conservatory of Latinx Culture (ICLC) is a new cultural organization they are forming. It’s main mission is to keep folkloric culture alive and vibrant in the future. They believe the future lies with helping parents teach and expose their children to the culture, roots, music, foods, dance, art, language and family values- today. It’s also a primary impetus behind the Colombian Fest.
The cancelled 2020 confirmed line up included Colombian Vallenato/Pop Mainstay Jorge Celedon, Salsa Legend “El Leon de Salsa” Oscar D’ Leon from Venezuela, Puerto Rico’s Reggaeton Pioneer Tego Calderon, Colombian Salsa band LA-33, PIBO Marquez and La Colombiana Orquesta. Grupo Son San de San Pablo, Ceferina Banquez Theran, Lina Babilon, Anne Gil, along with a host of local artists in which make up part of the Year of Music program from DCASE. Ortega Bros. hope to bring most of these artists in 2021.
Public safety has always been a foremost concern of the Colombian Festival and community involvement is the Ortegas middle names. You’ll find them volunteering at food banks and donating other services to working on crowdfunding for members of the Colombian community. The future is indeed uncertain for events. The Ortegas were recently asked and joined with the National Association of Catering and Events Association to ask Governor Pritzker to appoint a representative from the events industry to be part of creating guidelines for reopening. The events industry has been devastated economically by this Covid pandemic and which can not just “open up” like other businesses. And Jorge Ortega says “The 911 terror attacks devastated the economy and especially the entertainment industry. It was a long hard road to recovery back then. Covid-19 is more severe and deadly, as the medical specialists still don’t know much about it. We produce event environments with the deep understanding that we must always protect, keep patron’s safety and wellbeing our number one priority. Medical safety practices must be implemented in all levels of the event experience and how does the production team address and execute the requirements for social distancing, contact tracing, checking, special zones, medical tents, food vending health safety rules, etc. “
We are hopeful, we are all in this together, please stay safe, strong and support your local government’s plans to control this situation. We will see you soon for some great music, fun and lots of dancing! “
Stay up to date with the latest news, visit colombianfestchicago.com or follow the Fest at facebook.com/Colombianfestchicago & elgranfestivalcolombiano on Instagram : Colombianfestchicago #colombianfestchicago @colombianfestchicago