Hundreds show up to see Don Francisco as NYC street was officially named after him

The longtime Univision TV host Don Francisco got a hero’s welcome from the hundreds of fans who battled the heat in a small New York City plaza in the Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights.

“Don Francisco thank you! For so many years of smiles and great humor!” a fan poster read as the beloved Chilean waved at the crowd at Mitchel Square.

Don Francisco, whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger, was in New York Tuesday as the city was honoring him by naming a stretch of 167th Street after him. It will bear the name “Don Francisco Blvd” in honor of Kreutzberger, whose last episode of “Sabado Gigante” airs on Sept. 19 after 53 years on the air.

“Somehow they are saying ‘what a pity you’re leaving, good-bye, thank you very much’ and vice versa, I should be saying thanks to them, because they are the representatives, here in Washington Heights, of all of our viewers in the United States,” Kreutzberger told the Associated Press.

Among those fans that made the trek to the top of Manhattan was Amparo Sanchez Franco, a 55-year-old Colombian who has been living in the United States for more than 30 years. She told reporters that she arrived to the plaza at 6:15 a.m. just to see the TV host.

“To me Don Francisco is an international icon. He is a person who has helped a lot of Hispanics. He is a Hispanic who has taken us to the summit,” she told the Associated Press, adding that she once participated in “Sabado Gigante” in 2007, winning a car because her dog could sing Mexican music. “Today he looks tired but he has not failed us.”

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “Sabado Gigante” is the longest-running variety show in the United States. It has been transmitted in countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador and Honduras.

Kreutzberger, 74, said the show’s final episode will be dedicated to all the people who have worked on the show along the five decades, though he remained tight-lipped about the details.

However, he said it will not be the last that people see of him.

“I am throwing around some ideas,” he said. “I have an idea to create a talk show, I want to do a docu-reality, I want to produce for others, I want to develop new talent, I want to do as much as I can as long as my mental and physical capabilities allow me.”

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