The Dia de San Juan Puerto Rican Festival coming to Stramler Park on Sunday has all the makings of an island dance party con sabor .
Organized by the Bakersfield chapter of Boricuas Unidos de California, the festival is marking its 18th year in Kern.
Longtime Boricuas Unidos de California adviser Inocencio "Chencho" Madera, 62, said the event was founded as a way for the Kern Puerto Rican community to unite and celebrate the colorful traditions of the island. Madera was born in the Puerto Rican municipality of Guayanilla.
"Puerto Ricans don't have many events to call their own, so they cherish it. We are united that day."
The Dia de San Juan, or Festival of Saint John the Baptist, is celebrated around the globe a number of different ways. In Europe, Saint John's Day festivities are closely associated with the ancient pagan traditions of pre-Christian times.
Since John the Baptist is the patron saint of Puerto Rico and the namesake of the capital city (San Juan), his day is widely celebrated with big parties on the beaches on the Eve of St. John's Day, traditionally celebrated on June 23. One tradition is to walk backward into the ocean and fall in 12 times at midnight on the beginning of the 24th.
"Dia de San Juan is even bigger outside of Puerto Rico," Madera said. "So much has changed there. It's even hard to find salsa music on the island. The younger generation needs to keep our traditions alive."
A walk to the ocean may be out of the question, but a feast of food and music is not.
On Sunday, vendors will sell authentic Puerto Rican food, including arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) and empanadillas (spicy baked beef pies), along with desserts, cold beer and non-alcoholic beverages.
Similar to the St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston, New York hosts the largest Puerto Rican festival and parade in the nation. With growing awareness and support, Madera said the Kern festival could become a popular tradition.
"In Los Angeles it's also getting really big; about 15,000 people show up for their festival. This type of event is great for the community of Bakersfield."
Once you've had your fill of spicy foods and cool drinks, the traditional Latin sounds of the island will draw you to the dance floor.
Lined up to perform are Bakersfield's only full-time salsa music group, Salsa Solution, and veteran ensemble Los Hermanos Hernandez. Deejay Michael Anthony will keep the rhythm going until the event winds down at dusk.
"Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend." Gates open at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10. Children 12 and under free. Stramler Park is located at 3805 Chester Ave.
This summer's big ticket live music schedule has been on the slow side, but that doesn't mean you should stop marking your calendars.
Keep these shows on your radar in the coming weeks and months: Ghost Trees at Dagny's Coffeehouse on July 1; Kottonmouth Kings, X-Clan, Imperial Soundclash at B Ryder's on July 16; Tijuana Panthers and GRMLN at Sandrini's on July 22; Amy Grant at the Fox on July 24; Ghoul at Jerry's Pizza on July 27; Atlas Genius at B Ryder's on Aug. 8; Courtney Love (!) at the Fox on Aug. 24; Bam Margera at Elements Venue on Sept. 11; Gary Allan, Sheryl Crow at Rabobank Arena Sept. 15.
An Evening of Punk at Sandrini's, 1918 Eye St., Friday, 8pm, $5, 322-8900.
The reaction from conservative diners inquiring about the weekend entertainment line-up downstairs at Sandrini's is always a hoot, and this show has all the makings of a Tipper Gore nightmare. A cavalcade of punk acts from the serious to high-larious, they should keep your ears on edge: Black F*g (Tribute to Black Flag), The Objex, The Mormons, Mobius Dick, and Closing In.
Metal Night at B Ryder's, 7401 White Lane, Friday, 9 p.m., $5, 397-7304.
A night of headbanging goodness is guaranteed when Bakersfield's official flag wavers of the genre, Meditated Assault, make a return to the stage after a short absence. Always up for a good time, they've also polished up their sound to become a local force of original heavy rock. Also rolling through are bands Ruach, The Slow Forward, and APOTA.
Indie Showcase at The Gate, 2010 O St., Saturday, 7 p.m., $7.
If you'd rather avoid having beer spilled all over you by adult bar rowdies, you can always hang with a cleaner bunch over at The Gate for this all ages, indie rock show. Appearing are local bands Burn the Ships, featuring local singer songwriter Landen Belardes, plus Jam Room Jungle, and The Summer Initiative. Highly recommended.