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San Sebastián Street Fest going ‘hybrid’ on Jan. 30-31

San Juan city officials confirmed that this year’s traditional San Sebastian Street Festival will take place in a hybrid format — combining limited presence in Old San Juan with virtual events — on Jan. 30-31, with a much smaller budget than prior editions, health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a press conference, San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero said the municipality is contributing $20,000 to the event, which is added to the $15,000 from the DDEC and $20,000 from the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. The private sector is also sponsoring, but Romero refrained from disclosing how much they will put up.

Last year, the municipal government allocated $1.2 million for the festivities from its budget.

The San Sebastian Street festival has been celebrated for more than 50 years in Old San Juan, where artisans and vendors set up booths in different parts of the city and thousands of people descend on the cobblestoned streets for the local handcrafts and musical performances.

This year, because of the pandemic, artisans will be limited to a total of 60, split equally among three squares: Plaza San José; Plaza de Armas; and Plaza Eugenio María de Hostos.

“The San Sebastián Street Festivities have stood out for more than 50 years in our capital city and have continuously contributed to the socio-economic development of the island from various sectors,” San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero said.

“We’re aware that the coronavirus prevents us from holding the festivities as we know them, but that doesn’t hold us back from celebrating them differently,” he said.

The main change this year is the virtual component. The event will be televised on WAPA TV and WAPA America — to reach Puerto Ricans living stateside — as well through the municipality’s Facebook page.

“The San Sebastián Street Festivities is a well-known cultural event, not only locally, but internationally. This year, due to the pandemic, we’ll celebrate it virtually by focusing on the needs of Old San Juan merchants and artisans, who every year wait for this event to increase their sales,” said the first lady of San Juan, Maritere González.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP) announced it will partner with Medalla Light — Puerto Rico’s signature beer brand — under the name “More than a Street” to celebrate this weekend’s fest in the cultural neighborhood of Ballajá in Old San Juan.

Consumers will be able to purchase pieces made by artisans and visual artists affiliated with the mobile Artesanías ICP app and through Medalla Light’s virtual store.

“Music plays a fundamental role in every Puerto Rican celebration and this time it could not be the exception,” said ICP Executive Director Carlos Ruiz-Cortés, about the collaboration with Medalla.

“These musical presentations will complement the fair that we will be holding in Ballajá, allowing people to be able to support our artisans in a safe environment with prevention measures and then they can enjoy the talent of important musical groups at home,” he said.

The fest will start its broadcast on Noticentro en la Mañana on WAPA TV in starting at 8 a.m. today from Plaza San José.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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