Hundreds flood downtown Norwich for city's first Peruvian Festival

Corima Labajos Medina, 10, of Norwich, takes a video on a phone as the flag of Peru is raised during a Peruvian Festival on Sunday, July 29, 2018 in downtown Norwich. The first annual festival celebrated the Proclamation of Peruvian Independence. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Corima Labajos Medina, 10, of Norwich, takes a video on a phone as the flag of Peru is raised during a Peruvian Festival on Sunday, July 29, 2018 in downtown Norwich. The first annual festival celebrated the Proclamation of Peruvian Independence. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Norwich — For those who ventured downtown Sunday, it was easy to get lost in joyous dancing, delicious food, and a sea of red and white.

Hundreds of people flooded into the downtown for the city's first-ever Peruvian Fest, a festival celebrating the country's Proclamation of Independence delivered by José de San Martín on July 28, 1821.

The free event, held for most of the afternoon along Franklin Street, was hosted by Peruvians United of Connecticut and Global City Norwich, and represented the first festival in the Global City Norwich initiative. That initiative, funded by the city and a grant from Chelsea Groton Bank, aims to promote the city's ethnic diversity and bring community and cultural events to the downtown area.

"I'm so excited, proud and happy, everyone just pulled together to have this event and it is just so well supported," said Suki Lagrito, the Global City Norwich liaison, crediting the event's success to the support of the city, Peruvians United, and residents from thoughout southeastern Connecticut. "This is a reflection of everyone's energy and effort the past month."

Kicking off with the raising of the Peruvian flag alongside the American flag in Franklin Square, a singing of both the American and Peruvian national anthems and readings delivered jointly by members of Peruvians United and several government leaders, Sunday's festival proved very popular among residents who had plenty of ways to get a taste of Peru.

With alpacas and llamas on hand to pet and take photos with, food from Peruvian restaurants Canggio Restaurant of Norwich and Pollos A La Brassa of New London, a bouncy water slide, Peruvian goods, music and lots of dancing, residents were left overjoyed.

The dancing especially was a crowd favorite, as New London Peruvian dance school Yawar Llajta wowed attendees with a traditional performance in colorful dress and then audience members danced the afternoon away led by instructors.

Sthefany Calle and Justin Rivas, who came from New London alongside Calle's family to enjoy the festival, said the highlight of the day was getting to see the dancing. And especially for Calle, who is from Peru, seeing the traditional Marinera dance was particularly special.

"I've never witnessed it, I've seen my aunt do it in videos but not in person," Calle said. "Having that and seeing this tradition of Peru, it's crazy."

Calle also said she liked how the festival brought the community together and supplied an opportunity for people to reconnect with others they hadn't seen in years.

Meanwhile the festival also proved very popular with vendors.

Blaeimir Pedroza, who alongside his wife, Rosaure, owns the Pollos a La Brasa Peruvian restaurant in New London, said the festival was a great experience, although he was surprised by just how large of a crowd the event drew.

In fact, he said so many people attended that they ran out of food just 20 minutes after the festival began at 2 p.m. and after going back to the restaurant to retrieve more food, they ran out again shortly after 3 p.m. 

"I really like it and I think we are going to come back even stronger next year and with a lot more stuff," Pedroza said with a laugh.

And for Peruvians United Connecticut, members were left happy as well.

"They opened the door for our community and I feel so good for that," said Lizbeth Polo-Smith a representative of Peruvians United Connecticut, referencing the city and response of residents. "This shows the Peruvian community we are uno."

c.clark@theday.com

A crowd walks past Kaitlin Contveras, 16, of Norwich, as she wears the traditional valicha costume during a Peruvian Festival on Sunday, July 29, 2018 in downtown Norwich. The first annual festival celebrated the Proclamation of Peruvian Independence. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
A crowd walks past Kaitlin Contveras, 16, of Norwich, as she wears the traditional valicha costume during a Peruvian Festival on Sunday, July 29, 2018 in downtown Norwich. The first annual festival celebrated the Proclamation of Peruvian Independence. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Edward Jacome, left, and his mother Maria Romero, both of Groton, enjoy traditional food during a Peruvian Festival on Sunday, July 29, 2018 in downtown Norwich. The first annual festival celebrated the Proclamation of Peruvian Independence. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Edward Jacome, left, and his mother Maria Romero, both of Groton, enjoy traditional food during a Peruvian Festival on Sunday, July 29, 2018 in downtown Norwich. The first annual festival celebrated the Proclamation of Peruvian Independence. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Brianna Morales, 6, of Norwich, has a flag of Peru on her cheek as she sings the national anthem during a Peruvian Festival on Sunday, July 29, 2018 in downtown Norwich. The first annual festival celebrated the Proclamation of Peruvian Independence. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Brianna Morales, 6, of Norwich, has a flag of Peru on her cheek as she sings the national anthem during a Peruvian Festival on Sunday, July 29, 2018 in downtown Norwich. The first annual festival celebrated the Proclamation of Peruvian Independence. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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