She doesn't have an accurate account of how many tamales, tacos, tostadas, burritos and enchiladas have been served at the St. John's Fiesta Mexicana, but food committee co-chair Loretta Chavez knows it's in the thousands.
This year Chavez and her army of volunteers will use 400 pounds of ground beef, 200 pounds of pork sausage, 24 gallons of hot sauce, 75 pounds of potatoes, 25 pounds of onions, 200 pounds of beans and countless cups of shredded lettuce and cheese to create 1,500 of each of the Mexican delicacies that has made the fiesta a hit for the past 17 years.
``The recipes go way back,'' Chavez said. ``They've stayed in the families for years and been passed from grandparents to parents.''
Chavez and other organizers are gearing up for another night of food, fun and entertainment at the annual fund-raiser for St. John the Evangelist Church, 1229 Vt.
``It's gotten bigger and, hopefully, it's gotten more organized,'' said coordinator Buddy Langford.
The fiesta began as a way to raise funds for the newly formed Corpus Christi parish. That parish is now firmly established and raises money on its own,
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Langford said. The money raised from this year's fiesta will go directly into St. John's coffers, with more than half of the $15,000 organizers hope to raise going to programs at St. John School.
The festival draws thousands of people each year, and they all come for good food and good entertainment, Langford said.
``Sometimes people drive by and see a line and they think it's too crowded to stop,'' he said. ``But it moves fast.''
The fiesta has become so popular that three years ago when the event was threatened by rain, customers still stopped by to pick up a plate of authentic Mexican cuisine.
``You know you've got a good product when people will stand in the rain to get it,'' Langford said.
It's not just the food that draws so many fans to the fiesta, Langford said.
``Some come just because they want to hear the music or see the dancers,'' he said.
Los Danzantes de St. John's, a children's and young adult dance group will perform, and Las Estrellas, a Mexican band from Kansas City will play.
Carnival games and refreshments will also be available, and new this year is a cake walk.
``You have to come for the flavor and the atmosphere,'' Langford said. ``You gotta want to get up and tap your feet.''
-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.