Thousands line up for food on opening night of Fiesta

Annual event marks 23rd year at church

The 1200 block of Kentucky Street exuded Mexico Friday night, and several thousand people were on hand to breathe it in.

Sarah Chavez, 10, gets a helping hand with a hair accessory from her mother, before going on stage at the 23rd annual St. John's Mexican Fiesta. Friday night's events included dancing, music and authentic Mexican food. The Fiesta continues at 5:30 tonight on the grounds at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky.

The 23rd annual Mexican Fiesta, which continues today, served up authentic tamales, tacos, tostadas and rice in the parking lot of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky.

Young dancers kicked off an evening of entertainment by flipping their brightly colored skirts on-stage to a mariachi beat.

The line for food was about 15 minutes long Friday evening — but well worth the wait according to some of those attending the festival.

“We’re really looking forward to the food,” said Lawrence resident Deanna Culbreath, who, with her two friends, skipped the line to watch the dancers before eating. Culbreath also attended last year’s Fiesta.

Friday’s line for food will be dwarfed tonight, when burritos and enchiladas are added to the menu, if past Fiestas are any indication.

Mike Hadl, a 23-year Fiesta veteran who was working security Friday, said the line could stretch to 13th Street and turn 90 degrees east toward Vermont Street if tonight is anything like past Saturdays .

Traditionally, Saturdays at the Fiesta draw between 8,000 and 10,000 people, said Buddy Langford, a member of the fiesta’s executive planning committee.

With Budweiser beer flowing at $3 a cup and food at several dollars a plate, the fiesta should bring in between $30,000 and $40,000, said Joe Kenney, another volunteer.

That money will go toward the school adjacent to the church and toward college scholarships.

Organizers are confident that the Chautauqua events that span the weekend in nearby South Park won’t detract from the Fiesta.

“We hope to get some carryover,” Hadl said. “When people get done with that, they can come over here.”

The party ran until about 11 p.m. Friday and is scheduled to do the same today. Live bands, including Friday’s Kansas City-based La Mañana and today’s Emporia-based Fiesta Band are providing a musical backdrop for the event.

A long line for food wraps around St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church at the 23rd annual St. John's Mexican Fiesta.