HUMBOLDT PARK — The 31st Annual Puerto Rican Festival kicks off Thursday in Humboldt Park.
This year's event will feature all the usual goodies — music, carnival rides, games, yummy plantain-based dishes — but will also include the historic combining of the downtown and neighborhood parades to create one big celebration on Division Street.
Organizers announced in April they would combine the parades, bringing as many as 30,000 people to the new, bigger Division Street version.
Part of the reason for combining the parades was financial, and for the first time organizers will ask for a donation from those attending the festival in Humboldt Park.
"We're going to basically ask if anybody would like to contribute," said organizer Hank Zamola. "It's going to very passive and soft, but if anyone would like to contribute, we'll ask. If people want to put 10 pennies in, then it's 10 pennies."
The parade will begin at noon Saturday at Division Street and Western Avenue and proceed down Division Street to Sacramento Avenue.
The stretch of Division Street will close about an hour before the parade starts. Rockwell Street will also close between Haddon and Division Streets to make room for a TV crew.
Zamola said from time to time police will also close streets surrounding Humboldt Park if they feel there's too much traffic going into residential areas, but will not have any set, scheduled closures related to the festival.
Additional police will also be on hand to control both traffic and any mayhem.
"Anytime there's a fest, be it the Puerto Rican Fest or any other fest, we will work closely with event organizers to make sure it can be enjoyed by everyone and enjoyed safely," Zamola said.