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Festival celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Activities included a parade, music, a dunk tank, food and clothing for sale and displays.


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001

DADE CITY -- Javier Lopez arrived just in time for the Cinco de Mayo parade on Lock Street Saturday. His red, white and green beads hung around his neck like a medal on a ribbon.

However, the eight-month-old boy will not understand the significance of the celebration until he is much older.

His parents, Cecilia and Osvaldo Lopez, brought him to the parade in a stroller.

"(Cinco de Mayo) is a tradition of Mexico," Mrs. Lopez said. "And we are Mexican. The parade was nice, even though it was short."

Short, but spirited.

Cinco de Mayo is not the major celebration of independence in Mexico, but it has caught on in the United States. Organizers of the event in Dade City figured it would be a good time to highlight the county's Hispanic community, which numbers nearly 20,000.

In addition to the parade, there were events Friday night and all day Saturday.

Gabriela Garcia, 15, was crowned the queen of the festival and rode in the parade with Scott Black, the mayor of Dade City.

"I raised $92 to win the title," the brown-eyed, brown-haired teenager said.

All the money raised from the festival benefits the Pasco Food Bank, which supplies food to agencies that give to the needy.

"This is great having all the community together," Gabriela said. "Everyone is in unity."

Black said the event helped celebrate the cultural diversity in Dade City.

"(It) has been here for a long time," he said. "It started with agricultural roots and moved on to more entrepreneurial types of enterprises."

Black said that when he was growing up in Dade City, Mexicans were there seasonally.

"We always looked forward to seeing our friends when they returned," he said. "Now they have put down roots and are here year-round."

At the festival on Saturday, there was music and other entertainment, a dunk tank, food and clothing for sale and displays by the health department and other agencies.

Renato "Paco" Garcia, 16, was greeting friends and acquaintances and looking for surprised reactions. His hair was spiked with wood glue.

"It washes right out," he said. "I just wanted to add a little excitement."

There also was a 5-kilometer race and 1-mile fun walk in honor of Jose Meza, who died Dec. 4. "He helped Hispanic people in the community, and I wanted to do something to honor him," said Aurora Juarez, his daughter.

This year, the 15 participants received certificates and T-shirts.

"Next year, it will be sanctioned and we will have trophies and money prizes," she said. "He was such a good person."

Another group that sported T-shirts was a group called Sigame, which means "follow me" in Spanish.

They were against the use of tobacco products.

"I'm not ever going to smoke. It is nasty," said Rigo Arubio, 13. "It grows hair on your tongue."

They distributed papers in Spanish and English on the stigma of smoking.

The festival offered traditional Mexican food as well as hot dogs and chips.

Tacos, salsa with lemon and chips and posole -- chili red juice, pork and white hominy -- were for sale.

Sara Juarez, 11, was trying the posole.

"It's all right," she said. "But I'd rather have a hot dog."

-- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459.

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