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Party time at Arlington Fiesta in the Park
By Eileen O. Daday | Daily Herald Staff

The Ballet Folklórico of Elgin dances in the winner's circle at last year's Fiesta in the Park.


Daily Herald file photo, 2009

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Published: 7/9/2010 4:36 PM

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Arlington Park bugler Jean Laurenz will find herself accompanied by mariachi trumpeters this Sunday, July 11, for the traditional "Boots and Saddles" call before each race.

Only once each racing season does Laurenz have company in the winner's circle, when the racetrack holds its annual Fiesta in the Park.

Gates open at 11:15 a.m. with the first race kicking off at 1 p.m. Tickets are $6 if purchased online, or $8 at the gate. Children 17 and under are free. General parking is free, with preferred $5 and valet service $10.

The day features live salsa music, and dance lessons, as well as performances by a traditional Ballet Folklorico dance troupe, and a chance to meet the track's leading Latino jockeys, all in the pavilion on the lawn located near the pony rides and petting zoo.

More music and dance sets will take place in the winner's circle between each race.

But the merging of the mariachi with the park's bugler symbolizes the day, says event coordinator Jerry Campagna, who organized the first fiesta nine years ago and all the ones since.

"Here you have this iconic symbol of the Latino heritage and the rich tradition of thoroughbred horse racing sharing the same spot, literally in the winner's circle," Campagna says.

Track officials say that since Fiesta in the Park's inception in 2002, it has grown to be one of their most popular special events, with more than 12,000 people attending last year.

"It's nice to reach out to the Latino community that's so important to horse racing," says Dave Zenner, Arlington Park's senior communications manager. "People of Hispanic decent are involved in almost every aspect of the sport, from the grooms, trainers, hot walkers and exercise riders, to the jockeys and track employees.

"These are the people who literally put on the show," Zenner adds.

Fans can meet some of the sport's big name celebrities - its Latino jockeys - during an autograph session from noon to 12:30 p.m. They include the current leading jockey Junior Alvarado, as well as Edwardo Perez, Diego Sanchea, Julio Felix, Inosencio Diego and Jozbin "JZ" Santana among others.

Coinciding with all of the colorful activities will be a soccer celebration timed with Sunday's World Cup final.

Fans can meet Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa, one of the team's leading scorers and a native of Guatamala, from 12:30-1:30 p.m., before trying their chances at winning jerseys and other Fire items.

"This is one of the most power-packed events I've worked on," Campagna says, "with all the variety of activities going on in one place."