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First Cuban Festival draws attendees from along Suncoast

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Published:   |   Updated: August 21, 2013 at 12:53 PM

NEW PORT RICHEY - The sound of Latin music and laughter drifted out from behind the market. Around the building, the vehicles spilled out of the parking lot into city streets and at Sims Park, indicative of the number of people who had come to attend New Port Richey's first Cuban Festival.Since February, the Market Off Main on Lincoln Street has been offering Cuban cuisine, courtesy of recipes by local businessman Juan DeSosa, a Cuba native who until recently owned various Cuban restaurants in the area.Market Off Main owners Jerry Kuss and Rose Mohr have been planning Cuban-themed nights since then, but until recently, a date had not been set. Two months ago, Mohr settled on July 20."Ever since Juan has been a part of this, we were going to start doing a Cuban night," Mohr said. "We just kept talking about it but never did it - so I picked a day."A news story in a Spanish-language newspaper that covers Pasco, Hernando and Hillsborough counties help attract visitors from around the region.In addition to offering delicacies like pressed Cuban sandwiches and garbanzo soup, the market held a pig roast and served beer, wine and soft drinks. A local band played live Latin music for patrons to enjoy while they talked and ate out by the water. "I think everybody had a good time," Mohr said. "I was very pleased with how it went. I think this was a good first attempt."The festival also honored DeSosa, a well-known Pasco resident who emigrated from Cuba to New Port Richey in the 1960s and participated in the ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion.Now 87, the founder of Juan's Black Bean Deli has passed down his grandmother's recipes to the Market Off Main's owners and employees, whom he taught to properly prepare and cook the food. His cantina first opened in 1999 and was open on Main Street until last year.After his cantina on Main Street closed, DeSosa "became a frequent visitor to the market," Kuss said. "We kept telling him there was no good place locally to get Cuban food and asked if he was willing to resume some of his recipes here and help train people to cook it his way." The July 20 event started at 3 p.m. and went until about 8 p.m. Sponsors and vendors, such as Ierna's Heating & Cooling, State Farm and Volkswagen of New Port Richey set up tables around the stage. More than 200 people passed through to eat, and listen to the music.Next month, the market will participate in the 2013 Night in the Tropics, a Caribbean-style event held in downtown New Port Richey. It also plans to hold a sock hop in September to appeal to the older crowd in Pasco. "We had a good attendance from the Tampa area for the Cuban festival because they have such a big Cuban population there," Mohr said. "We thought the oldies would have a bigger appeal to our area here."The market still hopes to do a smaller, monthly Cuban-themed night."This just ended up blossoming into something bigger than we initially were thinking about," Mohr said.dmiller@suncoastnews.com(727) 815-1067

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