During the rest of the week, people in the cities of Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton may see a lot of Puerto Rican flags, music and dancing take place. The 50th annual Puerto Rican Festival of New Jersey is going on right now. Across the county, events will be occurring celebrating Puerto Rican culture and traditions.
The festival began on Sunday, with events such as the Puerto Rican flag being raised outside the Vineland City Hall building. The Puerto Rican flag was also raised Monday morning in front of the Millville City Hall building and once again raised during the early evening hours in front of the Cumberland County Courthouse in Bridgeton.
The festival, which began in 1967, offers Puerto Rican music, food and entertainment as well as highlight many aspects of the Puerto Rican Community. Cumberland County Freeholders, mayors from two cities in the county and council members, attended the flag raising in Bridgeton.
"The people love it," said Puerto Rican Festival representative Ernesto Perez Jr.
"The Puerto Rican Community reaches out and brings all of the communities together. It is more than just about food. People are learning how to dance and learning the history of Puerto Rico. We love it, and we want to bring everyone together."
Sherriff Robert Austino has seen the festival take place in the county for a number of years.
"I remember as a young officer working in Vineland when it first began, I used to look forward to the fellowship there and the great food they had," Austino said. "It was always a good time with great people. I hope there are many more years of success with this festival.
"The feeling as a born Puerto Rican young man with Puerto Rican parents from the island of Puerto Rico is tremendous," added Millville Mayor Michael Santiago. "What this does is show the younger group that there is a huge tradition from the island of Puerto Rico that we are allowed to celebrate right here in the United States I think it is a very important message that we are sending and I am so proud to be Puerto Rican."
Bridgeton Council President Gladys Lugardo-Hemple served as the emcee of the Bridgeton event. Lugardo-Hemple, who is also from Puerto Rico, highlight the festival's importance to the community.
"Cumberland County is full of diversity. That's what makes us glorious and different. You have to teach the roots, culture and beauty of the island. Most of the younger generation was born here, but you have to teach the younger generation to follow the culture. That makes the festival bigger than ever."
The festival will culminate July 30 with a parade in Vineland and closing ceremonies held at Landis Park.