Great Bend’s Cinco De Mayo celebration Saturday was a feast for the senses.
Festivities at the Barton County Courthouse Square were filled with proud, vibrant colors, delicious smells and tastes from a variety of different cuisines, lively music, conversation and laughter.
The traditional celebration, typically held the Saturday after Cinco De Mayo - the Fifth of May - drew a large, diverse crowd to downtown Great Bend from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In keeping with tradition, the festivities began with a parade down Main Street ending near the courthouse, and featuring floats and vehicles from a variety of groups and individuals.
The parade was led by this year’s Cinco de Mayo Queen, Jaslene Mata, and Princess Jenifer Hernandez, who were formally crowned and recognized along with third-place candidate Decilia Bray later in the afternoon.
Father Prakash Kola kicked off the courthouse square portion of the festivities with a prayer in Spanish for all those gathered.
Cinco De Mayo Coordinator Margarita Castruita-Ayala emceed the afternoon’s festivities in both Spanish and English, a symbol of both the pride and unity she hoped was conveyed to those in attendance Saturday. Following the prayer, she led off the presentation with a welcome to visitors, and the presentation of both Mexican and U.S. Flags and national anthems.
“This is an event for the entire community of Great Bend, not just the Hispanic community,” she said. “I’m very thankful that everyone is here participating (in the celebration).”
For the Hispanic community, she said it was a chance to express pride in both their home country, Mexico, its unique culture, as well as celebrate their home in the United States.
Members of the El Sol Folk Dance Club at Great Bend High School performed once again this year, as did members of the Zumba class from Club 1 Fitness in Great Bend. A band made of students from Great Bend elementary schools also was given the opportunity to perform during the day’s festivities.
In addition to food and drink vendors featuring a wide variety of offerings, organizers were also approved to have a beer garden, a new addition to this year’s festival. Also at this year’s festival, organizers had a bounce house for the youngsters in the crowd.
However, the event was about more than just fun. Representatives were on hand from several community groups, offering information and access to key resources in the community
Communities Organizing to Promote Equity (COPE) Community Health Worker Flor Sanchez with Heart of Kansas Family Healthcare, and United Way of Central Kansas Director Charell Owings were available, sharing resource information, as well as giving away free COVID-19 tests, hygiene packets and food boxes to those in need. They also held a drawing for a $50 gift card.
The goal, Sanchez said, to let community members know what resources were available to them if they need help.
In addition, representatives from several other organizations, including Barton County 4-H, the Family Crisis Center, and the Barton County Health Department were on hand, as well. In addition to information about the department, BCHD representatives were also offering free immunizations. Officers from the Great Bend Police Department were also on hand, taking time to interact with young festival attendees.
Also honored during the day’s festivities was retiring USD 428 Activities Director David Meter, who was recognized for his more than two decades of service to the community. In recognizing him, Catruita-Ayala noted his significant contributions to the youth of not just the Hispanic community, but Great Bend as a whole.