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One of the many performances on the day at Norris Square's annual community festival on Saturday, Oct. 5. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.
One of the many performances on the day at Norris Square's annual community festival on Saturday, Oct. 5. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.

Norris Square celebrates its 35th year of community unity under the banner of “Mi Barrio”

The Norris Square Community Alliance’s annual celebration brought culture, fun and music to Norris Square Park on Oct. 5.

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This past Saturday, if you were anywhere within a five-block radius of Norris Square Park between noon and five, you more than likely heard a mix of modern reggaeton and traditional Latin music reverberating through the streets.

What you heard was the 35th edition of Norris Square’s community festival, held annually at the park that is the community’s geographic and activity center.

The theme this year was “Mi Barrio,” a nod to the changing neighborhood, but also a recognition of the cultural vibrancy and strength found in its longtime Puerto Rican community.

From the children who spent their time on all parts of the park’s playground, to the elders who sat around its edges watching the day’s musical performances, the neighborhood’s many generations were out in full force for the celebration.

In addition to the music, the festival also hosted many community vendors selling a variety of goods, including food, hand-made clothing, holiday decorations and much more.

For artist Jose Antonio Escalera, the celebration was the perfect opportunity to showcase and sell some of his work. 

“I’ve already had two people buy two of my paintings,” he said. 

As for the overall festival, it was Escalera’s first time attending, but he had nothing but praise for its ability to bring the community together and showcase its culture.

“It unifies everyone,” said Escalera. “I love it.”

The day was also a time for many other community organizations to come together and advertise their services.

Present were local sports organizations, care centers, representatives from the office of State Rep. Danilo Burgos and many more.

Josephine “Cookie” Quiñones was at the festival repping its organizers, the Norris Square Community Alliance (NSCA). She works in NSCA’s Intensive Prevention Services program for youth, but spent Saturday sitting at a table educating attendees about the upcoming census.

“I was telling these three ladies that I was giving information to about the census and they said, ‘What is that?’” said Quiñones. “So I had to explain to them how important the census is for us to be counted as a people, and for us to be able to be counted for programs that people take advantage of every day.”

Norris Square is one of the many hard-to-count zones across Philadelphia according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The neighborhood is also one of the city’s “opportunity zones” designated for new development and investment. It means a lot of newcomers as of late and Saturday was a perfect way to welcome them to the community. 

Quiñones said it was an opportunity to learn about the community they’re entering.

“I think it’s good to help them to expose themselves to who we are also,” she said.

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