Great Bend will celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, May 5. There will be a parade down Main Street at 11 a.m., followed by music, vendors, food, dancing and entertainment in the Barton County Courthouse Square until 4 p.m.
Great Bend held its first Cinco de Mayo Festival on May 7, 1994, which makes this the 25th year for this annual tradition.
Main Street will be closed from 19th Street to Lakin Ave. from noon to 1 p.m. for the parade, which will start at Brit Spaugh Park and end behind the band shell in Jack Kilby Square.
Some vendors said they plan to set up even before the parade. The Riley Elementary School PTO will be selling food all day. PTO member Brenda Guerra said Riley’s newly formed Parent Teacher Organization is raising funds for a number of projects at the school. Foremost on the list is an LED sign, similar to signs that are already in place at other Great Bend USD 428 schools. However, some of the money raised at the booth may be used for a teacher appreciation luncheon and for school items that teachers sometimes pay for themselves.
A cultural celebration
Cinco de Mayo literally means “Fifth of May.” Although the name is similar to “Fourth of July” in the United States, the misunderstood holiday is NOT the Mexican Independence Day, or even a major holiday in most parts of Mexico, other than Puebla. It celebrates the defeat of the French army during the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, during the Franco-Mexican War.
It became a bicultural holiday during the 20th century. During his first inaugural address in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of the “Good Neighbor Policy” with Latin American countries. National Geographic News reports that Cinco de Mayo gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s as part of that policy, and later as a way to build pride among Mexican-Americans.
Today, it is a celebration of Mexican heritage, culture, cuisine, dance and music comparable to St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish. It has also become commercialized as a drinking holiday for many people. However, in Great Bend it is more family oriented. Cinco de Mayo of Barton County awards an annual scholarship.
“The Cinco De Mayo festival is ready for another year of fun,” Community Coordinator Christina Hayes said at an April City Council meeting. The council approved a $500 sponsorship for the festival.
The festival in Great Bend is always observed on a Saturday, which really is the 5th of May this year. The last time Cinco de Mayo fell on a Saturday was 2012.