A virtual fiesta

Meghan Flynn

COVID-19 has changed how the 94th annual Garden City Community Mexican Fiesta will be held.

In lieu of the traditional Main Street parade and gathering for live music and food in Steven Park, the celebration will be held virtually on Sept. 12 via Facebook.

The theme this year is Riqueza de Decadas, which means Enrichment of the Decades.

The virtual celebration will include live entertainment, including Abismael Licon and his band and the GCCC Drumline.

Garden City Mayor Troy Unruh will read a proclamation designating September as Hispanic Heritage Month, and representatives of the Mexican Consulate of Kansas City will give the traditional “El Grito.”

The Fiesta Queen Scholarship Pageant will also be held Sept. 12, but at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Building at Garden City Community College.

Those who attend the pageant will be required to wear a face covering, and social distancing will be implemented.

Fiesta president Angelica Castillo Chappel said the pageant, sponsored by GCCC, is in its 16th year. She said it’s the pageant’s “sweet 16th birthday.”

The winner of the pageant will receive a $1,000 scholarship from Valley State Bank, the runner-up will receive a $500 scholarship from Golden Plains Credit Union and the third place contestant will receive a $250 scholarship from Dr. Trish Miller, an OBGYN.

The winner will also qualify to participate in the Miss Kansas America pageant.

The Community Mexican Fiesta Celebration is a Mexican Independence Day observance. It’s based on a cry for freedom that dates back to Sept. 16, 1810, which is known as El Grito.

It’s attributed to Father Miguel Hidalgo, of the village of Dolores, near Guanajuato.

Hidalgo called for equal rights, land redistribution, abolition of slavery and independence from Spain.

Today the cry is celebrated on or near Sept. 16 by millions of people in Mexico as well as the United States.

The celebration is important to Garden City because it’s linked to the Mexican heritage that helps shape the community’s unique culture.

People began emigrating from Mexico to Garden City at the beginning of the 20th century, Castillo Chappel said.

“The ethic of hard work, strong faith and devotion to family and community that these immigrants brought is something to be truly proud of,” she said. “This ethic has been passed down from generation to generation, just like the tradition of our community-wide fiesta.”

Castillo Chappel said the 2020 celebration will be a year to remember because people came to with adjustments and safety guidelines to celebrate in spite of the challenges.

Everyone is invited to attend the Facebook Live celebration.

The contestants for the Fiesta Queen Scholarship Pageant are Janisa Nunez, Monica Aguilar, Destiny Guerrero and Sophie Lowry.

Janica Nunez

Nunez is a freshman at Garden City Community College and a graduate of Garden City High School.

She hopes to become a respiratory therapist.

Nunez has helped her father with the fiesta and his car show and has been in the TeenMed program, peer leadership, a student athletic trainer and involved in a blood drive.

Her accomplishments include graduating high school as a Kansas Scholar, completing the TeenMed program and being CPR 1 First Aid certified.

This is her third year competing in the pageant.

Nunez said she wants to become Miss Garden City Fiesta Queen because she wants to be a role model in the community like her father.

“I watched him be so involved that it makes me want to be more like him,” she said. “I want our community to take care of our town and respect one another.”

Monica Aguilar

Aguilar is a freshman at Garden City Community College and a graduate of Garden City High School.

She hopes to earn a degree in criminal justice and become a social worker.

In the community, Aguilar is involved in choir and band at GCCC and was involved in theater in high school.

Her accomplishments include being nominated Best Supporting Actress in the 2018 Jester Awards and being named the winter Homecoming Queen in 2019.

Aguilar said she wants to become Miss Garden City Fiesta Queen to inspire Latinas and to “pave the road to life that our parents set our for us in a country that gives us the opportunity to flourish into anything we set our minds to.”

Destiny Guerrero

Guerrero is a sophomore at Garden City Community College and a graduate of Garden City High School.

She hopes to obtain her registered nurse license and to become a cardio thoracic surgeon.

In the community, Guerrero in involved in her church and volunteering in the medical field in anyway she can.

Her accomplishments include being accepted into the National Youth Leadership Medical Program, being accepted into TeenMed 1 and 2, getting her nurses aid license and she was accepted to continue her education with all expenses paid to become a medical assistant.

Guerrero said she wants to become Miss Garden City Fiesta Queen to set an example for the community.

“I would like to have the opportunity to use this platform to help younger kids, boys and girls of all ages, to strive for what they believe in,” she said.

Sophie Lowry

Lowry is a sophomore at Garden City Community College and a graduate of Hodgeman County High School.

She plans to transfer to become a speech-language pathologist and work with elementary school children.

In the community Lowry is a member of the cheer team at GCCC, a coach for the freshman cheer teem at GCHS, an athlete and coach at Fusion Athletics and a member of the GCCC Media Program.

She has volunteered at High Plains Public Radio, the child advocacy center Meadowlark House, tutored children and helped at community events in her hometown.

Judges for the pageant are Christopher Kells, Sophia Hernandez, Celyn Hurtado, Ted Ortiz and Trish Miller.

For more information on the pageant, call the organization president at 620-290-6264 or visit gcfiesta.org.