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Viva la Celebración : Great Bend celebrates Cinco de Mayo
Parade, festival set for Saturday
Marta Sanchez holds 3-year-old Rey, who, with his 4-year-old sister Renata, got to take a swing at a pinata Wednesday during a Cinco de Mayo program in Jack Kilby Square. Patty Fletchall, ESL teacher from Barton County Academy, holds the pinata. - photo by Susan Thacker

Great Bend residents are used to celebrating Cinco de Mayo on a Saturday, in spite of the literal translation of the Mexican holiday’s name: Fifth of May. This week, the festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, but there was also a Cinco de Mayo program on May 5 at the bandshell in the courthouse square.

Donna Krug from the Cottonwood Extension District said usually offers a May program featuring the ESL (English and a Second Language) students at the Barton County Academy (BCA) and decided this year to hold it outdoors. She also worked with Cristina Ingram, who teaches Spanish at Great Bend High School and sponsors the GBHS folk dance club El Sol, to bring the dancers to the park.

El Sol was created in 1992, the same year GBHS started its ESL program as the district started enrolling greater numbers of limited and non-English speaking students. A history of El Sol can be found in an exhibit at the Great Bend Public Library. According to information from the exhibit, which will be up through Saturday, the dance club was created to involve immigrants in the school and allow them to participate in activities and share their heritage with the community. Today it is open to any student who wants to learn a new culture and have fun.

Ingram is also a graduate of GBHS and participated in El Sol all four years she was in high school, she said. One of the highlights for members is dressing in traditional costumes and performing Mexican folk dances for live audiences.

“We haven’t had a lot of places to dance (this year) because of COVID,” Ingram said. Restrictions are starting to ease and on Wednesday the students planned to head to the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse after performing at the bandshell. They will also be back at the courthouse square to perform during Saturday’s Cinco de Mayo Festival.

El Sol members this year include Tania Molina, president, and Kimberly Reyes Pilo, Lizeth Muñoz, Bianca Garcia, Rebecca Rodriguez, Clara Vazquez, Sienna Cauley, Brenda Rodriguez, Guadalupe Rodriguez Guzman, Vanessa Delgadillo and Mariana Castillo. Brianda Rodriguez is the DJ/assistant.

Wednesday’s program also featured ESL students from Barton County Academy sharing “The Real Story of the Pinata.” They explained how the first pinatas were made with clay pots but nowadays they are mostly made with cardboard and paper mache.

Rosa Prieto, Graciela McIntosh, Marta Sanchez, Belia Urena and Ana Campos showed how far they’ve come in learning to speak English by telling the story. Patty Fletchall, the academy’s certified ESL teacher, said BCA also has a high school diploma completion program. ESL classes help non-native speakers gain proficiency in reading, writing and speaking English. While many of her students come to the academy with zero high school credits, they also can earn a diploma. (BCA’s 2021 graduation ceremony is set for 6 p.m. on May 25 at Trinity United Methodist Church.) For Wednesday’s program, the students brought a pinata for children in the audience to enjoy.

Krug set up an Extension StoryWalk in the courthouse square Wednesday. The pages of the book “Too Many Tamales” were enlarged and posted along a path to encourage walking and reading. The turnout was low as Wednesday’s weather included sprinkles of rain, but Krug said she plans to offer the StoryWalk later this month at the Great Bend Recreation Commission Activity Center. And as the dancers began the first part of the program, the rain stopped.

More to come

Great Bend’s traditional Cinco de Mayo festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 8, in Jack Kilby Square. There will be music, food, dancing and other entertainment. A parade down Main Street will start at noon. The 2021 Cinco de Mayo Queen will also be crowned.