The Ritchie Valens Memorial Highway is to be inaugurated on Aug. 25 with a screening of the movie La Bamba and a family-friendly festival featuring performances by a Valens tribute band led by Ernie Valens, Ritchie’s cousin.
The stretch of the 5 Freeway to be named for the rock-n-roller runs through Pacoima in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, which was Valens’ home town. Born Richard Steven Valenzuela, the Chicano rock pioneer had a 1958 hit with “La Bamba,” the song that transcended the singer and guitarist’s short life and career. Valens was just 17 years-old when he died in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) after a concert in 1959.
“Ritchie Valens exemplifies the talent and greatness that exists in this community,” Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez said in an announcement about the Valens highway naming ceremony. “Breaking barriers as one of the first Latino musicians to crossover to mainstream rock-and-roll. His music was the soundtrack for generations of Angelenos and his legacy is a source of pride for our Pacoima community.”
The festival and movie screening will be held at Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima (10731 Laurel Canyon Blvd.) on August 25th from 3-10 p.m. to celebrate the official unveiling of the Ritchie Valens Memorial Highway signs. Confirmed performers include DJ Rhythm Donor (Bobby Arias), the Backyard Blues Band and the Ernie Valens Band.