St. John’s Fiesta set for Friday and Saturday

Fiesta events


• Mariachi Girasol – 5:30 p.m.

• St. John’s Fiesta Dancers – 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

• Concert: Steele Road with DJ Ritmo and friends – 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.


• Mariachi Habeneros – 5:30 p.m.

• St. John’s Fiesta Dancers – 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

• Concert: Grupo Picante with DJ Ritmo and friends – 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Just as hot weather and cicadas indicate the beginning of summer, the newly hung Mexican flags signal the coming of the St. John’s Mexican Fiesta.

This weekend thousands of people will descend upon St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky., drawn by the smell of homemade tamales and the sound of mariachi music. The event, from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, will serve as a fundraiser for the church, which will sell food and take donations.

The fiesta will also features the bands Steele Road and Grupo Picante, along with the St. John’s Fiesta Dancers. The money — they raise up to $40,000 annually — will go to St. John Catholic School and help provide a scholarship for parish students looking to attend college or a vocational school.

“It’s the parishioners and a core group of people that make this happen,” said Rev. John Schmeidler, of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. “It’s good to see them coming together for the school and for the parish.”

Preparing for the two-day fiesta is a parish event. It will take up to 100 volunteers to prepare for and work the event. Volunteers will cook 300 pounds of pork and 600 pounds of beef.

Cooking that much food in such a variety — tamales, tostadas, enchiladas, burritos, the list goes on — seems like a daunting task, but Schmeidler, who is now in his eighth year at the parish, said the women who cook all of the food make it look easy.

“They have it down to a system,” Schmeidler said.

This is the 31st annual St. John’s Fiesta and some of the women have been cooking since the fiesta started. Back then it was called a mini-Fiesta. As the years passed, the event grew until there was nothing mini about it.

Held the first weekend after Father’s Day, the St. John’s Mexican Fiesta has established itself as a Lawrence institution by giving locals what Schmeidler said is a taste of the strong Hispanic culture and community that exists within the St. John’s Parish.

When Friday evening comes, the cicadas will begin harmonizing with the mariachi trumpets, as thousands turn out to support the church and eat their fill of Mexican food. Summer has begun in Lawrence.