23rd Fiesta Mexicana expected to draw crowd

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky., will play host Friday and Saturday to its much-beloved Fiesta Mexicana. This is the 23rd Fiesta, which has attracted as many as 5,000 people in past years.

The event will feature a menu of tamales, tacos, tostadas and rice on Friday. On Saturday, enchiladas and burritos will be added.

“The tamales always sell out,” said Frank Lemus, the Fiesta chairman. “They’re a big attraction.”

Volunteers have raised the number of tacos and tostadas available slightly this year, but organizers still suggest getting to the church early if you want to taste the homemade food.

“Every year we increase the amount of food,” said Loretta Chavez, one of the organizers. “And every year we run out.”

Food will be served at 6 p.m., but Chavez suggests getting in line by at least 5:30 p.m.

“We know it’s so discouraging to wait through line and not get any food,” he said. “Come early and listen to the live music and other entertainment.”

Admission to the fiesta is free. La Mañana, a band based in Kansas City, will play Friday. Emporia-based Fiesta Band, will perform Saturday. Fiesta Band is a new group, but several of the members have played at the Fiesta before, Lemus said.

The Fiesta dancers are another favorite feature of the event. It was uncertain they would appear this year because one coordinator fell ill and the other had scheduling difficulties.

Alma Quintanilla mixes garlic powder into a bowl of salsa for this weekend's Fiesta Mexicana at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church 1234 Ky. Quintanilla and others cooked Wednesday.

Fifteen-year-olds Ashley Anguiano and Jessica Garcia came to the rescue and began to organize rehearsals for the younger girls, despite holding part-time summer jobs.

Jan Miller’s daughter Avery will be one of the dancers.

“The Fiesta wouldn’t have been the same without the dancers,” Miller said. “Those two young women stepped forward and volunteered.”

The Fiesta is a big fund-raiser for the church and St. John’s school. In previous years, the Fiesta has brought in as much as $40,000.

“It’s not just a church function, it’s a community function,” she said. “It’s a wonderful cultural experience. People from all around come for it; I meet different people each year.”