is inviting all of Meriden to this weekend's Puerto Rican Festival.
A 30-year member of the city's police department and a pillar in Meriden's Puerto Rican community, Cardona has organized the fair for the third straight year after taking over the reigns from the late Francisco Velez, who started the festival four decades ago.
"Before it used to be just music and food. We made it a family event," said Cardona. "It's about everybody, not just the Puerto Rican people."
Meriden's 45th Annual Puerto Rican Festival will take place on Sunday, August 12, from noon until 8 p.m. at Hubbard Park. The event features more than a dozen food vendors selling everything from rice and beans to pizza to hot dogs and hamburgers. There will be rides, music and other entertainment activities as well.
"We've got a cultural tent. It's very typical. We'll have coconuts in there which, in Puerto Rico, you break open with a machete," Cardona said.
Cardona, a native Puerto Rican who moved to Meriden in 1960, estimates that the city has about 16,000 Puerto Ricans living here. In recent years, the festival's attendance has increased from several hundred to many thousands, including which was moved up a day due to rain.
"The only thing I'm worried about right now is the rain," he said. "The rain date is Saturday."
Entertainment at this year's festival includes performances by Alex el Bizcohito and Herencia de Plena, two well known Puerto Rican artists.
The festival is sponsored by organizations throughout the community including local banks, as well as the city.
Several local citizens will be honored at this year's festival and three local high school students will be awarded iPads for their essays on the question: "How does diversity make Meriden a better place?"
"The essays were excellent," said Dr. Miguel Cardona, Hector's son and principal of Hanover School.
"We want to expand just beyond celebrating the positive things of the culture, we also want to start giving back now," Miguel said. "It's not only for latinos it's also for all of Meriden. The city is a diverse place."