The Mexican Fiesta begins at 6 p.m. Friday and continues until 11:30 p.m.
The St. John's Fiesta Dancers will perform from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The music group Son Venezuela will play at 7:30 p.m. until 11 p.m.
A Mariachi Mass will be at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the church, followed by a Mariachi HabaÃ±eros dance at 5:30 p.m. The fiesta begins again at 6 p.m.
The dance group will perform from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. followed by Grupo Picante at 7:30 p.m. Carnival games will also be available Saturday.
Food will be served both nights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Money raised from the event supports maintenance of the St. John School, a Spanish language program for preschoolers to sixth-graders and a scholarship fund for local children.
The 27th annual St. John's Mexican Fiesta will kick off Friday night complete with Mexican food, live music, dancing and family fun.
One of the key features of the fiesta is traditional Latin dancing performed every year by Fiesta Folklorica, a group of about 35 people from ages 7 to 18.
"I'm looking forward to the kids having a good time," said LaShane Starr, director of the Lawrence dance group.
She started dancing at St. John's fiesta when she was 8. Now, she helps teach the youths who perform at fiestas and events at neighboring communities throughout the year.
For the local fiesta, the group coordinates with the Lawrence Arts Center to allow children from the community to dance just for the weekend; they are dubbed the St. John's Fiesta Dancers and are practicing every night this week at the site of the fiesta, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky.
"The footwork is really hard," said Jessica Lemus, 12. "You have to move your feet really fast, and you are wearing heels."
But showing off the flowing skirts and bright colors of some of the traditional dance outfits makes the practice all worthwhile.
"The outfits are pretty hot, but they are pretty," Jessica said.
Starr said she loves watching children from the church community growing up and learning to dance and carry on family traditions.
"It's always been about kids and families from here," she said. "It's special for the elders who are here and started the fiesta. Many of the volunteers have started to prepare for the cooking, because, for some, the food is the main attraction.
Frank Lemus, the event's chairman, said, "to me, the food is the heart and soul of the fiesta."
Lawrence volunteers young and old make the food. Lemus said observing and working alongside the generational gap is a thrill for him.
"I tell the younger guys to listen to these stories," he said of the older volunteers.
Lemus said he wants people to learn more about the history of the Lawrence Mexican community.
"We've evolved into a Lawrence tradition," he said. "I hope people of Lawrence feel like this is their event, too."
For more information on the fiesta, visit www.stjohnsfiesta.com.