This Saturday Great Bend will hold its 19th annual Cinco de Mayo Festival.
When the festival was new to our city, we spent a lot of time explaining what Cinco de Mayo was and even how to pronounce it (Sink-o dee MY-o). The name means “Fifth of May,” and it’s an actual holiday in Mexico — celebrating Mexico’s victory over an invading French army in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1856.
But Cinco de Mayo in the United States is often the name of a cultural festival, rather than a holiday. In fact, while this year’s event actually does take place on the fifth day of May, most years it does not. It’s usually celebrated on the first Saturday of May, whatever that may be.
When the Great Bend Cinco de Mayo Festival was new, sponsors noted that the mostly non-Hispanic population of Great Bend might not know much about the city’s Hispanic residents. Some have lived here for two or three generations, but many have immigrated from Mexico and other countries in the last 20 years. Without them, our population would have declined, but instead it has held steady, as newcomers took jobs, learned the language, and became Great Benders.
They still have a culture and heritage to embrace, rich with traditions, music, dances and food. This Saturday, we can all be Mexican in the same way we’re all Irish on St. Paddy’s Day. The party starts with a parade at 11 a.m., and continues in the courthouse square.