CONCORD — The Boricua Fest held in August at Cabarrus Brewing Co. in partnership with Boricuas en North Carolina was such a success that the brewery is already making plans to host it again next year.
Boricuas en North Carolina (BNC), the only organized movement of Puerto Ricans in the state, hosts brewery crawls and family gatherings to help Puerto Ricans who have moved to North Carolina from the island with settling in the community. For years, BNC has held fests around the Triangle and Fayetteville area. The Concord Boricua Fest in August was the first in the city.
And it was a hit.
Over 7,000 people came Aug. 28 to view the 53 vendors, along with the dancers, music and other entertainment.
The fest also had a mobile vaccine unit that administered 21 first COVID-19 doses.
Willmarie Austin, who was instrumental in bringing BNC to Concord, said the event was better than she dreamed.
“It was a complete success,” Austin said. “It had amazing comradery, music and delicious food. It was a great event. It inflated my heart.”
The main purpose of these events is to help connect Puerto Ricans who have moved from the island, not only with the Boricua community, but with their new city or town.
Austin said several local Puerto Ricans came to the event, but some traveled to get here.
One family who used to live in North Carolina and was a part of the BNC community heard about the Concord fest through social media and drove from Miami.
Seeing people travel that kind of distance meant the world to Austin.
“It made my heart happy because they have all of the Puerto Rican festivals in Miami already, but they wanted to be a part of it,” Austin said. “It was a huge sense of community.”
While many of the food trucks and other vendors were from the Triangle and Fayetteville areas, several local food trucks and businesses attended, including a Charlotte bakery that sold out of 200 loaves of pan sobao.
Several of the out-of-town food trucks and vendors already expressed interest in coming back to Concord for the next Boricua Fest.
Stacey Griffin, co-owner of Cabarrus Brewery Co., said the brewery loved working with BNC — especially the food — and can’t wait to host the event again next year.
“We loved hosting this event,” Griffin said in an email. “The organizers were well-prepared and fun to work with. Our brewery, beer garden and surrounding areas in Gibson Mill are the perfect place to host this type of large event, especially during COVID times when it is preferable to have things outside. The exciting thing for our team is that this event brought a lot of people to the brewery who had never been before. This translates into these guests coming back again in the future ... not just to our brewery, but to the other businesses in the Mill!
“My favorite part was the amazing food selection, the music and performances, and watching the crowd engagement.”
At the end of the fest, it’s tradition for organizers to bring out instruments, play, dance and enjoy themselves after the hard work.
When the day was over, Austin said she was riding on cloud nine.
“From the very beginning, the music and the smells were amazing,” she said. “It was the feeling of home.”