VACAVILLE — Jose Rodriguez wasted no time in hitting the dance floor at Saturday’s Festival de la Isla. The 87-year-old San Francisco resident was moving his feet to the music when he set them on the ground at Peña Adobe Park.
“He has more energy than us,” said his daughter Sylvia Sierra, also of San Francisco. “He will probably out-dance everyone. Then, he’ll go home and continue the party.”
Rodriguez came to the United States from Puerto Rico when he was in his teens. Saturday, he donned the Puerto Rican flag on a small necklace shaped like a conga drum. He playfully tapped the top to demonstrate it can be played like a miniature drum.
Alisha Ponce, of Concord, attended with Sierra and Rodriguez. It was her first Festival de la Isla. She, too, was there to dance.
This years marks the 13th annual cultural event, which welcomes all nationalities.
Tiffany Taylor-Brown’s red hair was a clue that she might not be Puerto Rican. She married into the culture. Her mother-in-law hails from there.
“This is a family tradition,” said her husband Aaron Brown. “My birthday is this month and this is how I celebrate it. I only invite 1,000 of my Puerto Rican friends,” he said.
The couple, who live in Fairfield, along with their 2-year-old daughter Isabelle Brown, 2, arrived shortly after the festival got underway at 10 a.m. Like many others in attendance, they set up a canopy for shade and walked around the grounds.
“I love it,” said Tiffany Taylor-Brown, whose family has roots in Ireland and Scotland. “It’s great unity. I love the togetherness.”
Aaron Brown said he’s attended the festival on and off since it began. He plans on bringing his wife and daughter annually.
“I want her to have an extended family,” he said, holding daughter Isabelle. “You don’t get this anywhere else. You can’t buy it. You can’t rent it,”
Family also served up traditional Puerto Rican food such as rice and pigeon peas and empanadas.
At her booth, Tata Feliciano’s crew were all relatives. Set-up took about six hours on Friday. Cooking started about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
By the time the festival ended at 7 p.m., Feliciano expected to have at least 500 empanadas.
Her daughter Chiqui Velazquez took orders from the customers. Her sisters were serving the orders.
“I eat,” Velazquez said. “I don’t cook.”
Fernando Robles traveled from San Bruno to join family at Festival de la Isla. He had already purchased some traditional Puerto Rican food and was looking forward to trying some blood sausage, a delicacy of pig intestines and rice.
Ray Medina, from Fairfield, was waiting with Robles. They are family simply by the fact Medina’s cousin works with Robles.
“The music bring the heritage together,” said Medina, who traveled to Puerto Rico last winter. Robles agreed. “Salsa is a mixture (of music),” he said.
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