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Mexican celebration widens its appeal

The Mexican community expands its Cinco de Mayo fiesta beyond Lock Street in a two-day event raising funds for the Pasco Food Bank.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001

DADE CITY -- Cinco de Mayo is spreading.

East Pasco's Mexican community has long marked its native country's 1862 defeat of the French army in the Battle of Puebla with a parade down Lock Street, the local community's bustling backbone.

This year, for the first time, the celebration will spill over into Dade City's downtown.

"We're trying to blend cultures," said Evelina Bearden of the Farmworker's Self-Help, a Dade City social service and advocacy group spearheading the festival.

Though organizers, who met Thursday to continue making plans, don't expect to raise much money, they said the event's proceeds will benefit the Pasco Food Bank.

The food bank supplied 1.5-million pounds of food last year to Pasco and Hernando distributors that hand out the food to people who couldn't afford it otherwise, director Ken Buck said. The Self-Help has long been one of the distributors.

For this year, at least, the main aim of the event is not profits, organizers said.

"We want them to be able to learn our culture," said Araceli Corona of the Farmworker's Self-Help.

Food at the event will range from hot dogs and potato chips to tacos and tamales, they said. Music will span the scale from Mexican folk to American country.

TheMay 5 parade will remain the celebration centerpiece, and it will still be held on Lock Street. Organizers are inviting anyone from local businesses to local kids to walk from 21st Street to U.S 301/98 starting at 10 a.m.

They hope to throw beads and candy.

The festivities will start Friday evening May 4. Most will be held in the grassy area at the intersection of Live Oak Avenue and the U.S. 301/98 bypass, organizers said.

Friday will include music, live and recorded, and the crowning of a king and queen of the Cinco de Mayo Mexican Fiesta. The male and female who raise the most money for the food bank will receive the honors.

The festival will resume Saturday morning at 8 a.m. It is scheduled to start with a flea market, but the Self-Help is short on items to sell, Bearden said.

It will include activities, such as face painting for children and will last until evening.

The timing of the event couldn't be more perfect, organizers said, after census results recently released showing that Pasco County's Hispanic population more than doubled between 1990 and 2000, reaching 19,603 people.

"We want to see a place where people can put down their prejudices," Bearden said, "leave them at the gate."

- Ryan Davis covers higher education and social services in Pasco. He can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 3452, or by e-mail at

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