Garden City’s Community Mexican Fiesta — a local staple since 1926 — will celebrate 93 years of showcasing Hispanic culture this weekend, aptly under the theme “Abrazando Cultura,” or “Embracing Culture.”
People throughout southwest Kansas are invited to join in the festivities, said Fiesta president Angelica Castillo Chappel.
“People began emigrating to Garden City from Mexico at the dawn of the 20th Century,” Castillo Chappel said in a news release. “The ethic of hard work, strong faith and devotion to family and community that these immigrants brought is something to be truly proud of ... This ethic has been passed down from generation to generation, just like the tradition of our community-wide fiesta. We welcome everyone to join in the celebration as we all embrace our cultures.”
The annual celebration observes Mexico's Independence Day and carries on several longtime local traditions. Since 1928, the event has included a parade through Garden City. Since 1929, it has crowned a "Fiesta queen." The Miss Garden City Fiesta Scholarship Pageant, the scholarship pageant connected to the festival, will this year mark its 15th anniversary.
According to the release, Fiesta will forgo electing a parade grand marshal this year, instead using the occasion to honor Tyson Fresh Meats, Finney County's largest employer, which temporarily closed in August to undergo repairs from a fire to a portion of the plant. The company is paying full-time employees their normal wages for 40 hours a week and part-time workers for the limited hours they work.
“The Fiesta Committee wishes to recognize and honor Tyson’s commitment to reopening, and to the workers and their families who came together in this difficult time,” said committee member Jesse Nuñez in the release. “We want to commend Tyson for outstanding support of the workers and families affected by the fire. This commitment to the future exemplifies what we stand for as a community, and we stand with Tyson and honor the courage they have shown.”
The fiesta is based on a legendary cry for freedom known as “El Grito," which dates back to Sept. 16, 1810. The cry is attributed to the Rev. Miguel Hidalgo of the village of Dolores, near Guanajuato. Hidalgo called for equal rights, land redistribution, abolition of slavery and Mexican independence from Spain. Today that cry is celebrated on or near the date of Sept. 16 by millions of people in Mexico as well as the U.S.
The celebration is important to Garden City because it is linked to the Mexican heritage that helps shape the community’s unique culture, Fiesta organizers said in the news release.
The celebration in the park will begin with an invocation by the Rev. Jacob Schneider of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, singing of the American and Mexican national anthems by Lupita and daughter Maria Fernanda Sanchez, and the traditional “el grito” by representatives of the Mexican consulate in Kansas City.
• The Fiesta Scholarship Pageant at 7 p.m. Friday in the auditorium of the Pauline Joyce Building at Garden City Community College, sponsored by GCCC. Western State Bank will provide a $1,000 scholarship to the winner, Valley State Bank will provide a $500 scholarship to the first runner-up and Lorena Montoya of MBA Real Estate will provide a $250 scholarship to the second runner-up. The winner of the judged pageant will automatically qualify for an opportunity to participate in the Miss Kansas Pageant.
• The Fiesta Parade, heading north at 10 a.m. Saturday on Garden City’s Main Street, sponsored by Valley State Bank.
• A Fiesta celebration at 11 a.m. Saturday in Stevens Park, featuring a series of family-friendly activities, food and live music by Sangre Nortena, The Ortiz Band, Mariachi Real De Oro of Denver, and Garden City-based Compañeros Mix DJ Services. There will also be local folkloric dancers from Garden City High School and Sol De Mexico, led by Estela Gutierrez. Local entertainment will continue throughout the afternoon. This year the Fiesta brings back a beer garden sponsored by Western State Bank.
Information about the parade and other Fiesta programs is available from the organization president at 620-290-6264 or at www.gcfiesta.org.