How a Brooklyn plumber’s dream became Richmond’s biggest Latin Jazz and Salsa festival

by | Jul 1, 2015 | COMMUNITY

The 8th Annual Latin Jazz and Salsa Festival will take place at Dogwood Dell in Byrd Park .

The 8th Annual Latin Jazz and Salsa Festival will take place at Dogwood Dell in Byrd Park . The Festival has roots in Hopewell and Southside before, creator and founder, Luis “Sweet Lou” Hidalgo bought the festival to Dogwood Dell, just four years ago.

The host of ‘The Latin Jazz & Salsa Show with Sweet Lou Hidalgo,” the radio show that streams on Friday nights from 6pm – 10pm, Luis “Sweet Lou” Hidalgo, was just looking for advertising space for his business, Master & Son’s plumbing when he found himself in the WHAP Offices on Hull St.

Hidalgo walked into the offices without knowing a thing about radio, until he met Preston Brown, the owner of the radio station. “Preston Brown kept telling me, ‘Luis, you have a great voice,’ and I didn’t know where he was going,” said Hidalgo.

“I thought that I was negotiating for advertising time, 30 or 60 second spots. I walked out of there with a contract. As I’m driving home, I asked my wife, ‘Honey, can you read this and tell me what I have?’ She goes, ‘Honey, you don’t have advertising, you have a radio show.’”

A recent New York transplant and percussionist, Hidalgo, had no idea what he had gotten himself into.

“I [was] fresh out of New York…I go, ‘Well, what do I do?’ [My wife] goes, ‘Do what you love.’ And I go, ‘I know, I gotta make a show about plumbing,’’” said Hidalgo with a laugh.

A Puerto-Rican-American who grew up in Brooklyn, NYC, Hidalgo has loved this music his entire life, and when he brought this love to the radio it grew exponentially, along with the success of the program.

“People were listening from all over the country. We were getting calls from soldiers in Afghanistan, from South America, Europe, every state in the union, and all of the Caribbean Islands. They were calling because [at the radio station] they were also streaming the show, [this] introduced us to the internet audience,” said Hidalgo.

“I’m a musician, I am a percussionist. My whole life I’ve played salsa and latin jazz, in New York and all over the place.”

His love of salsa and latin jazz combined with the support that the show received, made Hidalgo decide to host the very first Latin Jazz & Salsa Fest, in the parking lot of the radio station. About 150 people came. Last year, over 1500 people attended the festival.

“The show and the festival don’t even belong to me. They belong to the people. I’m just a plumber who loves music and his culture,” said Hidalgo.

“It’s the rhythms…the hands on the skins of drums; no matter the culture, race, or music, those drums bring people together.”

Hidalgo knows that the success of what he has achieved with the festival is unique. He credits this to Richmond and opportunities presented here. “In New York, I would have never gotten the opportunity to do this. I would be overwhelmed by the greatness and size of it all,” said Hidalgo.

“In this town, [I am] a small guy like me with a small plumbing company and the desire to listen to good latin jazz and salsa, [but] look at what happened. God is great”

The 8th Annual Latin Jazz and Salsa Festival will take place on Saturday, July 11, as a part of the 59th Annual Festival of the Arts at Dogwood Dell from 3pm – 8pm.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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