St. John’s Fiesta celebrates Mexican food, culture

'It's so important to keep our traditions going'

Don and Laura Stull dance to traditional Mexican music during St. John’s Mexican Fiesta on Friday at St. John the Evangelist Church, 1234 Ky. The annual event with lots of food and entertainment will continue Saturday.

Children take advantage of an inflatable at the annual St. John's Mexican Fiesta Friday. The two-day event recognizing the Mexican-American community in Lawrence continues Saturday.

Kristen Hinshaw, left, and Casey Wallace feast on cotton candy during the St. John's Mexican Fiesta.

Fue una noche perfecta Friday for the annual St. John’s Mexican Fiesta in Lawrence.

Hundreds of residents turned out at St. John the Evangelist Church, 1234 Ky., to take part in the festivities, which included traditional dancing, live music and, of course, authentic Mexican food. The two-day event, started in 1981, celebrates Mexican-American heritage through the people’s faith, music and community.

“It does my heart good that here in Lawrence we can keep our traditions alive,” said LaShane Starr, who works with Fiesta Folklorica, a youth dance group in the area. “In Mexican culture celebrations are a big part of it. It’s so important to keep our traditions going.”

While children threw confetti-filled eggs and others mingled, the evening’s major draw had people lining up down the block. For many, it was all about the food.

“It is the only reason we come,” one woman said while waiting in line.

Former event chairman and co-organizer Buddy Langford was waiting in line with the masses. A veteran of the event since its inception, Langford said what actually kept people coming back wasn’t the food at all, but the people.

“It’s the associations you make,” Langford said. “It’s the friends and the community. You get to meet a lot of people. You get to know their faces.”

Included among those faces are more than 300 volunteers from the community. Barbara Lynch and her husband have helped with the annual event for three decades. The couple agreed the event was not only a lot of work but also a lot of fun.

Money raised during the two-day fiesta supports Spanish classes at St. John’s Catholic School, 1208 Ky. It also goes toward scholarship funds for Mexican descendants in local high schools and to community projects throughout the city.

Today’s festivities will begin at 6 p.m. with live music and dancing that will last through 11:30 p.m. Admission to the fiesta is free.