Archive for Sunday, June 27, 1993

MEXICAN FIESTA REVELRY FOLLOWS MONTHS OF TOIL

June 27, 1993

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Children were tossing confetti eggs at each other. Costumed Mexican dancers were performing on stage. And hundreds of people stood in line to sample authentic south-of-the-border cuisine.

But out of the limelight, Bert Bermudez was standing in a hot kitchen in the basement of St. John the Evangelist Church.

Directing the busy kitchen traffic, her hands were hurriedly forming enchiladas to be carried to the hungry throngs outside.

Even though she was unable to see the number of people crowding into the 12th annual St. John's Mexican Fiesta on Saturday night, Bermudez could tell the fiesta was going well by the amount of food being carried upstairs.

"We have runners coming up and down and they ask for whatever they need," she said, smiling. "They came down and told us we were really keeping up well with the food orders. So I think we're doing OK."

Bermudez, part of the church's Hispanic community, was among the hundreds of volunteers who had been working to make the fund-raising event a success.

Buddy Langford, one of the main organizers of the event, laughed when asked if he had any idea how many people had crowded onto the St. John's School parking lot in the 1200 block of Kentucky Street.

"I don't know how you figure out how many are here. I'd say there's going to be anywhere over 3,000 people," Langford said. "I'll tell you what makes this go. It's the way people come together to make it work."

The fiesta began 12 years ago as a fund-raiser for St. John the Evangelist parish's general fund after Lawrence was split into two parishes when Corpus Christi parish was formed in western Lawrence.

Langford estimated that close to 200 volunteers had worked to make the event a success, including a core group that have been planning and preparing food for the event for months.

Some had been there since 5:30 a.m. Saturday transforming the parking lot into a colorful fiesta setting, and some were to stay until far past midnight Saturday to help clean up.

The event, which ran from 5 p.m. to midnight, featured games for children and live entertainment, including a dance troupe from Topeka.

The fiesta draws people from all around the Kansas City area and from Topeka and Emporia, who had to wait in long lines to get food, Langford said.

"I had different people say they spent 20 minutes in line and some say they were in for 40 minutes," he said. "Somebody told me it was a two-beer line."

Langford said the event was expected to bring in $11,000 to the church's general fund.

"We'll take in a lot of money, but there's a lot of expense here," he said. "We would think we would make more money with all the hard work that it takes to do this. But then again, it isn't just about money. It's a fund-raiser for the church, but it's more about coming together as a community and having a good time."

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