By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media

VINELAND — The rain was brief, but the sunshine, music and celebration lasted long after as the first Vineland Music Festival on Saturday, June 24 at the steps of City Hall shared the flare of the city’s Latino culture with the community and other visitors.

From the lively entertainers, emceeing and music from radio station Maxima 95.3 FM, to the line of food trucks and vendors, the Vineland Music Festival set a high standard for future ones to meet.

Highlighting the great culture and leadership in South Jersey’s Hispanic community.

Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci, who kicked off the festival with opening comments, praised the City of Vineland’s Sheena Santiago and her volunteers for pulling off a first-class festival. A former city councilwoman and small business owner, Santiago was seen hard at work fine-tuning the festival and leading her volunteers before the program started.

“It’s a great way to promote the city and bring different cultures together,” said Dr. Elizabeth Arthur, president of the Vineland City Council, who attended the festival. “I didn’t know what to expect crowd-wise but I hope the city continues to do more things like this to bring attention to the city and the people who live here.”

Vineland City Council vice president David Acosta said the event shows off the diversity of the city and believes it will connect with many of the residents.

“Hispanics make up about 40% of the community and that’s pretty big,” Acosta said, who joined fellow council members Paul Spinelli and Albert Vargas. “These aren’t just your regular ‘Joe Schmo’ guys and they are all pretty interesting. I hope this event will happen more than once because it’s free, it’s something people can look forward to.”

Delivering live music performances were Ommy Cardona, Izis La Enfermera de La Salsa, Lilly Bomba Merenguera, Joseph Penalvert Rivera and Manilo y Los Inolvidabes. Izis La Enfermera de La Salsa gave a soaring rendition of the National Anthem to start the festivities.

One of the special moments of the festival came when Fanucci honored Jose A. “Shanana” Cordova, who died just weeks before the festival on June 6. Cordova, known for his auto detailing, dancing and cooking, had an infectious positive attitude that attracted people from all walks of life, the mayor said.

“Many of us here at City Hall have known Jose, who we also know affectionately as Shanana, for being around for so many years,” Fanucci said. “He was probably the best car detailer you’ve ever seen. He was meticulous and always on point, along with stopping in to check on stuff all the time even after it was sitting there in the parking lot.”

In inviting his family up to the stage, Fanucci said he could feel Cordova’s spirit at the festival.

“I know he would have been here today and he’s looking down on us now,” Fanucci said. “We want to dedicate today’s celebration to honor him. He was an integral part of the culture around here, the well-being and the positive attitude that so many people had and so many were akin to him. He was like extended family to us.”

Raul Cordova, speaking for the family, told Front Runner New Jersey, that his brother was outgoing but humble, who loved music and people.

“He was humble but always a festive kind of guy.” Raul Cordova said. “I think he would be very proud of this day, especially with the music playing in the background. He was always outgoing but it was never about him. It was about other people and seeing them have a good time.

Raul Cordova said the family was humbled to learn that the city wanted to recognize Shanana in this way.

“We never thought the city would notice him in this way,” Raul Cordova said. “This is nice and it really means a lot to the family.”

One of the audience members included young DeLaila Visalli, dressed up as a princess, and her mother Terry. Terry said they came out to be a part of the festival.

Some of the vendors attending the event was Horizon America, with Norma Martinez, Cosecha Soaps with Elvira Maldonado and numerous county agencies.

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