Thousands come from all over for annual Onset Cape Verdean Festival.
When event organizers say people travel “from all over” to visit the annual Onset Cape Verdean Festival, they’re not joking.
Thousands gathered at and around the Lillian Gregerman Band Shell in Onset Saturday afternoon, and though many in attendance were from Wareham and the surrounding area, it’s clear that a large group of people made the trek from out of town to get a taste of Cape Verdean culture right here in the United States.
“We come every year,” said Wendy Miranda-Harris of Dallas, Texas, who was there with her three daughters, Aeriel Miranda, Alexis Miranda, and Farrah Miranda-Harris, “but this is Alexis’s first.”
Alexis, an actress, recently appeared on the television series “Pretty Little Liars.” Her sister Aerial is an aspiring singer-songwriter, and both live in Los Angeles.
Miranda-Harris said that she’s originally from New Bedford and has relatives in Wareham and Onset, and though neither she nor her daughters are from town, most are back for a repeat performance at the festival.
The same goes for Carla Caddell, who’s from Ohio but now lives in Virginia.
Not only were some of the attendees back for more action, but so was headliner Zerui DePina.
“I started at this festival when I was very young,” said DePina, who sings and performs traditional Cape Verdean music, “and now I travel all over the world playing music. When we started this fest, it was about a hundred people—now it’s thousands.”
Caesar, a singer from Chicago who was set to perform with DePina later in the afternoon, said it was his first time at the event.
“My wife (Kelly Monteiro-Caesar) is Cape Verdean, so she’s having a ball,” said Caesar.
Eden Soares, a representative of Ellie Paris Clothing out of Boston, was among the many vendors at the festival. He was there promoting the company’s brand and selling tee shirts.
Soares said that Ellie Paris clothing is a Cape Verdean/intercultural clothing line that highlights cultural heroes and their positive messages. It was started by Ellie Paris, who works with the Cape Verdean Student Association at UMass Dartmouth.
Soares said that Ellie Paris not only raises money to send UMass students to Cape Verde, but to give back to the younger generation there.
“They buy supplies for the kids and help them out,” said Soares, adding that the business got its start at last year’s festival. “It’s been excellent—we’ve gotten a lot of support and great feedback.”
Tiny Lopes, one of the former organizers for the event, said he comes back every year from California, where he now lives with his wife Virginia. Though they’re over 3,000 miles away, the event is near and dear to them.
“I’ve seen some people I haven’t seen in 50 years today,” said Lopes Saturday afternoon. “It’s all about coming together as a family—and they come from all over.”
“I do this for my grandparents,” he added. “They came here for a better life, and I came here to make sure they’re not forgotten.”
Lopes said he and his wife were among the 65-or-so volunteers who help put on the festival, which takes a whole year of planning. He said that the Onset Cape Verdean Festival Association expects to donate over $14,000 in scholarships from this year’s event, and that they’ve donated over $90,000 in the past.
“It’s all about giving back,” said Lopes, noting that besides giving scholarships to students from Wareham High and Bridgewater State University, they even gave a scholarship to a college student in California. “It’s not just us—the youth benefit from this.”
By Nick Walecka