LOS ANGELES -- Thirty-six blocks of downtown were taken over Sunday by 'L.A. Fiesta Broadway,' an outdoor celebration of the city's Hispanic heritage expected to attract up to 1 million revelers.
The pre-Cinco de Mayo extravaganza drew 75 local and international stars to perform for the crowds celebrating an important date on Mexico's road to independence.
Organizers were encouraged by last year's trouble-free event, and hoped L.A. Fiesta Broadway will become an annual tradition. A previous dowtown music festival, Street Scene, was marred by stabbings and the death of one fan in 1986.
'So far, so good,' said Los Angeles Police Sgt. Mike Long, walking along south Broadway. 'Everybody's having a good time.'
Long said about 300 officers, including a detail of mounted police, were on hand in the fiesta area.
Seven music stages were erected in the festival area, and several Latin music groups performed. A coup for organizers was arranging for the North American concert debut of Brazilian pop group Xuxa, which has become a music phenomenon in Latin America.
Latin stars who agreed to perform included jazz greats Tito Puente and Poncho Sanchez, pop crooner Manuel Mirajes as well as the legendary entertainers Lucha Villa and La Prieta Linda.
Other entertainers, representing 15 countries in Latin America, included the pop group Fandango, singers Jose Jose, Johnny Canales and Angeles Ochoa.
Kevin Baxter, 31, from Canoga Park, Calif., said he came to the festival to get a flavor of different cultures.
'My wife is from Nicaragua, and it's sort of a chance to experience part of her culture and part of the culture of Los Angeles,' Baxter said. 'It's really a lot of fun. In comparison to last year, there's 10 times as many things to do, to see and to experience.'
His 20-year-old wife, Fatema, said 'there are more famous people this year. I think it is more fun than last year.'
Festival organizers say they lost money on last year's $1 million event, but were more optimistic for this year's edition, despite a $2 million budget.
To make sure there is no trouble, a private security firm of 500 officers was deployed in the streets, and alcohol was restricted to several enclosed beer gardens.
Ericka Aviles was doing a brisk business selling ice cream bars in the 80 degree heat. 'Everybody is buying a lot of things,' she said. 'It's pretty good.'
Shade was at a premium in the festival area, but even an awning didn't provide much relief. 'It's hot,' said another vendor, Irene Palmar, ducking under a beach umbrella. 'But it's all right.'
A main goal of the festival is to call attention to Broadway, an aging thoroughfare that is the subject of rejuvination efforts.