CROTON-ON-HUDSON - Jose Velesaca and his three boys enjoyed a day along the bank of the Hudson River, and they were joined by many.
Thousands from the region turned out yesterday, many donning yellow, red and blue - the colors of Ecuador's flag - for the daylong heritage festival celebrating the South American country at Croton Point Park.
"I want to teach them our culture, to teach them how our people are," Velesaca said. "I want them to experience the culture and to see different things. This is something special for us."
The festival started with a Roman Catholic Mass and featured live music, folk dancing and other performances.
There were a variety of vendors selling traditional clothing, jewelry and other crafts, and a favorite of the crowd - specialty juices and Ecuadorean cuisine, such as roasted pig, corn, papas fritas and many other choices.
"Look at all this fruit," said Cheryl Wilson of Newark, N.J., who joined her neighbors for the fun. "I'm going to be here all day, so I'm looking forward to the music."
The Republic of Ecuador lies on the equator and borders Colombia and Chile along the Pacific Ocean. The country, also known for the Galapagos Islands and the Andes Mountains and for having a portion of the Amazon rainforest, has a diverse culture that enjoys a mixture of European, American Indian and African influences.
The festival, in its ninth year, is sponsored by Westchester County; it celebrates the country's independence from Spain. The county's Ecuadorean population is estimated at 80,000.
Daniel Quezada, a Brewster man whose parents were born in Ecuador, said the festival gives his family "a sense of being home."
It's the third year he has attended.
"There's a lot of culture that I don't know about," he said, adding that the traditional food and music are among his favorites. "It's good to see what they grew up with."