Nicole Gasparri had people on their feet.
The Zumba fitness instructor and Boca Raton city employee was up and moving with about 30 of her students in the middle of the street, jumping and fist pumping to the music as a crowd cheered.
“That was so much fun,” she said afterward, wiping her head and drinking water. “This is what Brazilian Beat is about.”
Gasparri was part of the Boca Raton Brazilian Beat on Saturday, a festival that celebrates Brazil’s Independence Day in downtown Boca Raton. Organizers estimated at least 5,000 people attended the event Saturday night.
Brazil’s Independence Day — Sete de Setembro — is celebrated on Sept. 7 and marks the anniversary of Brazil’s breakaway from Portugal. The festival in Boca Raton featured Brazilian vendors, music, dancing and cuisine.
Gasparri said she was one of the original team members who conceived the idea three years ago. She works as a training and development coordinator for the city, and on Saturdays hosts a free Zumba class on the beach. Zumba is an exercise that incorporates dance and aerobics, and borrows music and moves from South American influences.
She said since the event started three years ago, its popularity has exploded.
A lot of her students are of Brazilian descent and appreciate being able to share their culture with their classmates and their community.
One of her students, Claudia Vaerge, 43, of Boca Raton, said she is proud to see so many people in her community partaking in different aspects of her culture.
“It’s wonderful, you know?” she said. “You feel so good because we’re all from a different country, but we all get to share our culture.”
Glenn Gromann, chair of the Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee, said the event has become so popular — not only because it is a good time, but because the city is becoming much more culturally diverse.
Many Brazilians have settled in Boca Raton, Gromann noted. “We have a really diverse community, and a lot of people don’t know this, but there are a lot of Brazilians,” he said. “This is one of our most popular events.”
While the music and dancing was a draw for some people, the food brought out people as well.
Melissa Kajeejit, 28, of West Palm Beach, and Katie Gabriel, 39, of Coconut Creek, were told by friends that the Boca Raton Brazilian Beat was the place to go for delicious food and drink.
Specifically, the two were there to sample Caipirinha — Brazil’s national cocktail.
“It’s pretty good,” Gabriel said.
While they were enjoying cocktails, they took in all the sights and sounds of the festival.
“Everyone is so friendly and everything is so colorful,” Kajeejit said. “And the music. I love the music.”
In the end, everyone said the same thing about the festival — while it’s a chance to celebrate the Brazilian culture, it’s mostly about having fun.
“It’s about fun,” Gasparri said. “That’s what people really love about this. It’s about culture and it’s about having fun.”