The sun was bright and the breeze was light Saturday at the 91st annual Garden City Community Mexican Fiesta.
The Mexican Independence Day celebration began with a parade on Main Street, then everyone congregated in Stevens Park for music, food and dancing.
Susan Chase, 68, of Garden City, is of European descent and has been coming to the local Fiesta for a long time.
“I think it’s important to celebrate the Hispanic culture in Garden City,” she said. “I like to see all the people and all the costumes. It’s just a good-for-you event.”
Shawna Lucero of Garden City brought her 7-year-old son, Alejandro Jurado, to the events. His favorite part was the candy from the parade, but to her it means more than that.
“It’s important for them to witness the Fiesta because it’s part of their culture on their father’s side,” she said. “It’s a beautiful culture, and I wanted my kids to be proud of that culture.”
Francisco Acosta, 52, of Garden City, said he is of Mexican descent, but he enjoys seeing all of the different cultures celebrating together.
“I like to see everyone,” he said. “We are all part of the same family.”
Andrea Moya, 15, of Garden City, was one of more than 30 dancers who wore colorful dresses and celebrated in front of the band shell in Stevens Park.
“We are presenting our culture, the Hispanic society, our history,” said Moya, who has been participating in the Fiesta for more than five years. “It means a lot to us. It’s something special. It’s great for the community.”
Daniel Ordonez, 15, of Garden City, has been dancing since he was 6 but said it was his first time dancing at the Fiesta.
“I think it’s really fun to express our culture,” he said. “To come out here and dance, it’s exciting.”
Fiesta President Angelica Castillo Chappel said she estimated that more than 5,000 people were in attendance.
“It breaks records every year,” she said. “It feels like there’s more people this year.”
She said the local Fiesta started because, “People wanted to bring back their Mexico with them.”
“They were homesick,” she said. “(Garden City's) a home away from home. That’s how we feel now more than ever.”
Castillo Chappel said the celebration is for more than just people of Mexican descent, who celebrate their independence day on Sept. 16. Several other Central and South American countries have independence days in September: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador all celebrate on Sept. 15, and Chile celebrates on Sept. 18.
Mary and Paul Martinez served as the parade marshals on Saturday.
“We are very honored,” Mary said. “My great-grandfather came here and started the beginning of the Fiesta. My dad was always in the parade.”
Paul said his father was always involved in the Fiesta, as well.
“He always had on a charro outfit and rode a dancing horse,” he said. “It means a lot to us. I want our kids to see what our heritage is like.”
Paul said that after being gone for 20 years, it was amazing to see how the city's Hispanic community had grown.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s so diversified here. It’s really expanded.”
While people were celebrating at the park, the Mexican Consulate of Kansas City met with local residents at Garden City High School to provide them with needed documentation.
Israel Rojas, 33, of Dodge City, made an appointment to get a passport that will allow his family to visit Mexico.
“It is eight hours to Kansas City, five hours to Colorado. It’s far from us,” he said. “This time, they came to Garden City, so it’s not far from us.”
Maria Carrillo, 30, of Garden City, received her Mexican passport on Saturday..
“It’s easier for us to get what we need,” she said of having the consulate come to Garden City.
Sergio Garcia, 44, serves as the Consul of Documentation, in Kansas City, Mo. He said his office saw 187 people on Saturday and 57 on Sunday. They came to get a Mexican passport or an identification card from the consulate. He even issued Mexican birth certificates for 11 children.
“Some of them don’t have the option to get an ID from Kansas, so they get the consulate ID,” Garcia said. “They can use it at the bank, pharmacy, hospital.”
Garcia said the consulate will visit Garden City three times this year and also travels to Liberal and Dodge City.
“It’s an honor to come here and help them,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to go to Kansas City. That’s why we come here. It’s easier for them.”
The consulate will be in Garden City again on Nov. 18 and 19. People can make appointments two weeks in advance by calling (877) 639-4835.