Bristol Borough will go through a day-long cultural transformation next Saturday as the 45th Annual Puerto Rican Day Festival takes over Bristol Lions Park.
“We try to make it like a Caribbean scene where we turn the wharf into Puerto Rico,” said Norma Sullivan, president of the Puerto Rican Cultural Association of Bucks County. “People will see our dancers, they’ll see our music, they’ll get to try our food for the day.”
The festival begins at noon with a procession from the King George II Inn to a stage set up at the park. The Rev. Dennis Mooney, of St. Mark’s Church, who speaks both Spanish and English, will open the festival with a prayer, then Puerto Rico’s national anthem will be sung in both languages.
From there, the real party begins.
Sullivan said there will be several dance groups, including the popular Los Jibaritos de la Isla, who pay homage to Puerto Rican folkloric dance. There will also be dancing horses, or at least that’s how it appears. Paso Fino horses, which originated in Puerto Rico, walk with a fine step and rhythm, almost like they’re dancing as they step.
There will be vendors selling traditional foods like arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans), pinchos (pork or stick on a stick), empanadas, bacalaitos (cod fish fritter), fried green plantains, Puerto Rican-style water ice, coconut, passion fruit, pina coladas and more. There will also be music and dancing all day, until the festival ends at 8 p.m.
Jason Sosa, the World Boxing Association super featherweight champion, will also be there to meet fans.
This festival is one of many cultural celebrations in Bristol Borough throughout the year. In June, the park was host to Annual Celtic Day, celebrating Irish culture. In coming months, there will be an Italian Festival and a day celebrating African-American culture.
The festival is not exclusive, and people of all cultural and racial backgrounds are encouraged to join in the celebration.
Sullivan said embracing each other is important for communities to remain strong.
“Bristol is like a family. Everybody knows everybody, everybody looks out for each other,” she said. “It’s like you’re having a family get together…they embrace that culture, that tradition.”
To that end, the same people come back year after year, regardless of their backgrounds. Sharing culture with others, Sullivan said, helps preserve it.
“We’re happy people. We like to share our music and our traditions,” she added. “We want to keep it going. If you don’t carry it on, it slowly starts to fade.”
The 45th Annual Puerto Rican Day Festival will take place at Bristol Lions Park from noon to 8 p.m. The event is free. For information, call 215.205.7933.