Fiesta ‘family’ celebrates 25th anniversary

Annual event fun for all ages

Ruven Bermudez smiles as he points toward the corner of an artist’s rendering of La Yarda, a housing development where Mexican immigrants lived with their families in the early 20th century.

“I lived right here in this corner,” he said. “Right here.”

Bermudez, 79, who now lives in Colorado, attends St. John’s Mexican Fiesta every year, without exception. On Friday, he attended the 25th anniversary of the fiesta. He came to eat good food and meet up with old friends.

St. John's dancers, from left, Hayley Sheetz, 15, Felicia Carey, 14, and Raquel Rodriguez, 14, stomp and dance on stage entertaining fiestagoers. The St. John's Fiesta celebrated its 25th anniversary Friday, June 23, 2006, in the parking lot of the church, 1234 Ky. The fiesta continued June 24, 2006, with a Mariachi Mass starting at 4:30 p.m. at the church.

But Bermudez got caught up in the fiesta’s newest attraction: a history exhibit featuring photos and stories from Lawrence’s early Hispanic community. He’s in many of the photos, and he said he’s proud of his La Yarda roots.

“I can sit over there … and I got all my friends here,” Bermudez said. “It’s a big treat to me.”

Bermudez brought his daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson to St. John’s Fiesta this year.

Frank Lemus, who organizes the fiesta, sees the event as a “big family reunion” for all of Lawrence.

The fiesta, at St. John’s Catholic Church, 1234 Ky., has something to offer every member of the “family.”

At one end, a giant moonwalk wobbles as kids of all ages bounce around inside. There’s a long row of carnival games, booths for face painting and even a voter registration booth.

And then there’s the food.

On Friday, Mexican food lovers indulged in tacos, burritos, tamales and the like. Roasted corn on the cob, funnel cakes and cotton candy were also popular.

Some fiestagoers enjoyed their meals under shaded picnic tables near South Park. Some braved the scorching sun to catch the live entertainment, which included traditional Mexican dancers.

Today’s schedule

4:30 p.m.-Mariachi Mass.

6 p.m.-10 p.m. Authentic Mexican food served.

5:30 p.m. Mariachi Habaneros, a traditional Mexican band.

6 p.m.-7 p.m. St. John Fiesta Dancers, followed by Fiesta Folkorica.

7:30-11:30 p.m. Latin Express band.

Jessica Lemus, 10, has danced at the fiesta since preschool. On Friday, she twirled in a tiered orange dress with long, ruffled sleeves. She said she’s been practicing the dance since January.

Her fellow dancer, Raquel Dominguez, 11, said she wasn’t nervous to perform in front of the fiesta crowd. Just “very hot” in the late June humidity.

To Ruven Bermudez, who was baptized at St. John’s Church in 1928, coming back to the fiesta each year is a tradition he intends to keep.

“I couldn’t buy this,” he said.