People from many nationalities gathered at Quakertown Park on Saturday to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
Denton’s Cinco de Mayo Festival, presented by the Cinco de Mayo Committee, has been celebrated since the 1980s, organizers said. The day commemorates the victory of the Mexicans over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
The committee is a nonprofit organization run solely by volunteers — many of them from the Denton school district.
Head organizer Julia LoSoya said it takes a year of planning, along with many donations and sponsorships, to make the event possible.
Thanks to many churches spreading the word, LoSoya said this year’s celebration included more people from all over than in the past.
“We have Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico … the list goes on. … So many representatives, it’s wonderful,” LoSoya said.
LoSoya has been working with the festival since the 1990s and this will be her third — and sadly, she said, her last — year as head organizer.
“My main goal was to make sure we expanded the festival to have more activities for children,” she said. Children’s fun and games were added to the event about three years ago, LoSoya said.
While soccer used to be an attraction, organizers said that was removed and a 5K run was added in the mornings to kick things off.
The 5K, LoSoya said, has been well received so far and she expects it to grow in the years to come.
Celia DeLaPeña said this was her family’s second year to attend. On Saturday, her 6-year-old daughter, Alizé Sanchez, performed a traditional dance onstage.
“We saw kids performing last year and she wanted to do it, so we signed her up and she absolutely loves it,” DeLaPeña said. “I think we have many more years participating [ahead].”
Alizé was part of a dance group from Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.
Dance director Nancy Rana said Ballet Folklorico de Woodrow Wilson is open to any students who want to participate, and the lessons are part of the school’s dual-language and bicultural program.
“We perform wherever we are asked and just ask for donations to help pay for transportation,” Rana said.
Dual-language teacher Kim Schenck said the main idea is to teach the children about different cultures and from where the dances originated.
“It’s all about having fun while learning in a diverse environment,” Schenck said.
While Hispanic music, vendors and bounce houses were abundant at Saturday’s festival, the meaning was the same to everyone — getting together and having fun in a cultural environment.
“We are here to come together as one,” said Rinie Peace, treasurer of the committee. “It’s all about inclusiveness with all nationalities — no matter who you are — to be in unity with one another.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.