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in sábado (y domingo) gigante

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The 12th annual Fiesta del Pueblo is upon us (Sept. 10-11), and there are some new twists in the musical lineup this year. Besides returning alums in the tropical and Mexican regional categories, new Rock en Español, steel drum and reggaeton acts will premiere.

Saturday's Main Stage features Tercer Divisa Nacional ("Third National Division"), Latin rock homegrown in Wendell, at 1:30 p.m. Durham's Mickey Mills Steel Band adds a Caribbean cousin to the Latin lineup at 3:30 p.m., followed by Richmond salseros Bio Ritmo at 5 p.m. Closing out the first night are Challe Brillante y su Gambino exporting NYC reggaeton, the urban Latino club music that mixes dancehall beats and hip hop.

Sunday sees the return of some old favorites, with Solazo at 1:30 p.m., South American folk rockers who live their dream in Floyd County, Va.; Atlanta's positive ska force Mandorico (promoting their new album, Strong Fire) at 3 p.m.; and Winston-Salem salseros West End Mambo at 4:45 p.m.

The festival's more intimate Café Teatro features Durham-based C4 playing rock latino, Chapel Hill son trio Saludos Compay, and numerous other performers. The dance stage showcases a constant stream of local groups performing flamenco, mambo, capoeira and folk dances from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru. Highlights include a free salsa lesson on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Mexican touring troupe Los Viejitos de Cheran Michoacan on Sunday at 4 p.m.

A children's patio offers clowns, facepainting, bilingual story-telling, music and other activities for the young, and the huge health fair will be offering screening services for all ages. Visual arts will be on display, and vendors will be selling crafts and a tasty spread of Latin American foods like tacos, plantains, rice and beans, mangos with chili powder and cornmeal arepas.

Half of this year's proceeds will be donated to Hurricane Katrina relief. Festivities at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh run from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. A suggested donation for admission is $2, kids under 12 free with adult. See the full schedule and information at www.elpueblo.org, or 835-1525.

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