Long Island's Latin-American street festivals are something you can understand, even if you don't speak Español. You aren't likely to find zeppoles, bouncy rides or cover bands, but instead the flavors, music and traditions of Latin America.
Almost 20,000 people are expected to munch El Salvadoran-style grilled corn, sip tamarind juice, dance along to stage performances by artists visiting from El Salvador, Mexico and Honduras, and buy goods such as imported clothing and fine art.
Here's a guide to what you'll find at the "ferias" (that's Spanish for fairs).
WHEN | WHERE noon-7 p.m. Sunday, between Front Street and Fulton Avenue (Route 24) in Hempstead
THE SCENE More than 10,000 people usually attend this fair, which celebrates Central American Independence Day. It begins with a parade of floats representing all five Spanish-speaking Central American nations (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama). Onboard the floats: local beauty contest winners representing each nation.
"Most of the community is Salvadoran and Honduran, and a little bit from Guatemala, but Nicaragua and Panama are also represented in the parade," says fair coordinator Noemi Lutin, who owns a travel agency in Hempstead. Lutin says the event is a "traditional family day" -- no alcohol is sold inside the festival grounds.
THE FLAVORS Salvadoran grilled "crazy corn" (elote loco in Spanish) comes covered in mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and grated white cheese. Vendors also will be selling pupusas (thick tortillas filled with cheese or spiced meat), tamales, fried yucca, and rice and beans, the latter a Central-American staple. You also can taste exotic juices such as horchata, a milky Mexican rice drink, and tamarindo fruit drink.
THE MUSIC The festival stage will feature musicians from several Latin American nations, Lutin says, including Las Chicas Rolands from Honduras, the Korzel De Guerrero from Durango, Mexico, and Venezulan singer Juan Jose Rodriguez, also known as El Puma Jr.
WHEN | WHERE Noon-6 p.m. Sept. 22, Suffolk Avenue, beginning at the intersection of Brentwood Road and Washington Avenue and extending west for three blocks, to Monroe Avenue
INFO 631-231-7460, teatroyerbabruja.org
THE SCENE From 6,000 to 10,000 people, depending on the weather, are expected at this family-friendly festival celebrating Latino visual and performing arts, says Steve Bard, president of the board of Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja, a nonprofit organization that runs the event. Suffolk Avenue will be closed to vehicles and lined with vendor booths, tents with art exhibits featuring oil and acrylic paintings and drawings, a children's area and more. While most participants are Latin-American, Caribbean and African-American artists also will be participating, Bard says.
THE FOOD Although food won't be sold on the festival grounds, Suffolk Avenue ethnic eateries will be open and serving traditional specialties, Bard says. You can try roast chicken, empanadas and sangria at Mi Tierrita, a Colombian restaurant (769 Suffolk Ave.). The El Salvador Deli (1185 Suffolk Ave.) serves cheese or mixed meat-and- cheese pupusas, chicken and corn tamales, and carne asada (grilled steak) in its 40-seat dining room. A bakery onsite sells El Salvadoran goodies such as cheese quesadillas and bread, says owner Oscar Herrera.
THE MUSIC The stage schedule includes Mariachi Cuscatlan from El Salvador, the Conjunto Sabori salsa band and Papo Vazquez, a Grammy nominee who's known as "the Mozart of Latin jazz," Bard says. Adding a bit of diversity are performances by Kaïssa, a pop singer from Cameroon, and a Beatles tribute band.