Pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri and the legendary El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico opened the Salsa in the Park Festival in Bogota, a three-day marathon of music and dance in public spaces around the Colombian capital.

The 15th edition of the festival began around noon Friday in downtown Bolivar Plaza with local groups and the National Police band making the music.

But it was with El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, that the excitement grew, crowds poured in and people danced and sang along with numbers like "Brujeria" (Witchcraft) and "No Hago Mas Na'" (I'm Not Doing Anything More).

Salsa fans cheered Palmieri's arrival onstage as he kicked off his repertoire with "Muñeca" (Doll), showing that even in salsa, experience is a plus.

On Saturday the festival moves to the outdoor area of La Media Torta on the city's west side, where music lovers and salsa fanatics started gathering around 10 a.m.

Coming up were the local bands Son Callejero and La Charanga New York, as well as a tribute to Miguel Granados Arjona, known as "Old Mike," an announcer from the Caribbean city of Barranquilla who is said to have ignited Bogota's salsa explosion in the 1970s.

The festival returns to La Media Torta on Sunday for its final concert, with more Bogota groups and a gathering of salsa dancers.

Running in parallel to the concerts are academic activities and meetings on the capital's circuit of salsa bars.

In previous years, according to figures from Bogota City Hall, a total of 490,000 people danced during Salsa in the Park to the music of 192 bands. EFE