Spectators again packed Bicentennial Park for Baytown’s 13th annual Grito Fest Saturday, where the sounds of Tejano music and the world-famous Grito could be heard blocks away.
With clear skies and moderate temperatures, the event turned out to be the perfect fall Saturday night the Baytown Parks and Recreation was hoping for.
“The Grito Fest went off well,” Clifford Hatch, Baytown recreational superintendent, said. “It was one of the largest Grito Fest crowds we have had in the last 10 years.”
An estimated 8,000 people attended the event and enjoyed a day of food, music and of course, the Grito competition.
“It just keeps getting bigger and better,” Fred Aguilar, co-founder of the Grito Fest,
said. “There was a lot of good food, and enthusiastic crowd and a great group of volunteers to help set it up.”
The ever-popular festival that celebrates Hispanic heritage featured a jalapeno-eating contest, best salsa contest, accordion competition and Grito competition.
With about 10 participants for the jalapeno-eating contest, Keith Brown was crowned the winner after downing 10 of the spicy peppers the fastest. It was the second year in a row for Brown to take top honors. Diego Laredo, 14, was the youngest competitor.
This year, La Original Taqueria was crowned for having the best red salsa, while El Cacique had the best green salsa. This year’s best accordion player was Brandon Ybarra.
And with over 10 contestants entered in the Grito competition, Jose Esquibel won over the crowd with his Grito, which is a celebratory cry of joy, made famous during the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. The Grito de Dolores was first uttered by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a parish priest of Dolores, on Sept. 16, 1810.
The night was capped off by a performance from the very popular La Mafia – a four-time Grammy Awarding winning band from Houston.
“They played a lot of old songs, a lot of favorites and they had the crowd singing slong with them,” Aguilar said. “It was a really good show.”
Grito Fest is one of Baytown Parks and Recreation’s three major concerts each year, alongside the classic-rock-themed July 3 and the country-western Fourth of July celebration.
Aguilar, Goose Creek Board member Agustin Laredo and Jacob Shafer first started the festival as a neighborhood event. The first year they held it was out at N.C. Foote Park where they hoped at least 100 people would attend. They ended up with about 1,500.
“In the second year they moved to Bicentennial Park because they had the stage, better security and so on,” Aguilar said. “By the third year it became a city event.”
“It’s just a nice cultural event for everybody and we’ve had a lot of continued growth over the years,” he added. “And I think we just keep getting better.”