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Latin music Megafest makes its return

After a two-year hiatus, Tampa's largest Latin music extravaganza returns next weekend at a new venue.

Megafest 2003, featuring 13 Spanish-language bands and a food court encompassing the cuisine of the Spanish-speaking world, will crank up again at Tampa Bay Downs on Nov. 9.

The event, formerly an annual concert put on by La Mega 820 WMGG-AM, was canceled in 2001 following the events of 9/11, said La Mega promotions manager Mariangie Navarro. In 2002, Megafest never got off the ground because "the lineup wasn't as good as we had wished," she said.

But Megafest 2003 promises the kind of talent that, in previous years, has generated crowds as large as 20,000 people.

Navarro calls this year's fest "the most incredible array of Latin acts ever seen on one stage in the Tampa Bay area."

Artists include Jose Alberto "El Canario," Baby Rasta y Gringo, Obbie Bermudez, DL1, Huey Dunbar, Jossie Estaban, Fulanito, Karen y Voltio, Mannikkomio, Monchy y Alexandra, Oro Solido, Puerto Rican Power, and Son Callejero.

The festival returns "because we're the only Hispanic radio station that does this kind of event," Navarro said. "The Hispanic community is growing every year by enormous amounts. The Hispanic community needs this kind of event."

The Tampa-St. Petersburg area is the second largest Hispanic market in Florida, trailing only Miami-Dade County.

In past years, Megafests were held in a large parking lot at the Tampa Port Authority. Navarro thinks this year's move to Tampa Bay Downs will make for a more festive atmosphere.

Megafest will be the first concert at Tampa Bay Downs, which is actively looking for alternative events to help fill its calendar when the racing season is dormant.

"In the past we've been approached by radio stations to have festivals out here, so we've gone through the exercise before," said Tampa Bay Downs general manager Peter Berube. "And this one just fit into the calendar and our ability to help them put it on."

Berube said track officials will gauge the success of Megafest before considering any future concerts on an unused 9-acre section of the track's grounds.

In addition to a full day of salsa, merengue and bachata music, Megafest will host food vendors plying good eats from across Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Doors open at 11 a.m. and the music will start about noon and run until about 8 p.m. "But we always extend it a little bit more," Navarro said.

Tickets are $10 for adults and will be sold the day of the show. Children under 10 are admitted free.

For more information, call 871-1819.

_ Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 269-5304 or at