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Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Weekend to heat up with St. John’s annual Mexican Fiesta

June 18, 2014

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IF YOU GO

Friday:

• 5:30 p.m.: Mariachi Girasol

• 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Mexican food (tamales, burritos, tacos) served

• 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: St. John's Fiesta Dancers

• 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.: Steele Road with DJ Ritmo and friends

Saturday:

• 5:30 p.m.: Mariachi Girasol

• 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Mexican food (enchiladas, tamales, burritos, tacos) served

• 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.: St. John's Fiesta Dancers

• 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.: Picante with DJ Ritmo and friends

Carnival games on Saturday, moonwalk both nights. No outside food or beverages allowed.

The 3,000 tamales — and similar amounts of burritos and tacos — destined to be devoured at this weekend’s St. John’s Mexican Fiesta required much more planning and assembly than the time it will take to tear into the dishes.

The 34th annual two-day fiesta, held each weekend after Father’s Day at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Kentucky St., is an annual labor of love for the hundreds of volunteers that include parishioners and community members, many of whom have been there since the beginning.

The stage on which dancers, mariachis and live bands will entertain was assembled as of Wednesday, fiesta chairman Frank Lemus said. The food, however, is a project months in the making.

“It’s a good, hard-working event,” Lemus said of the committee that gathers yearly to prepare tamales. “It’s also a social get-together.”

As of 5:30 p.m. Friday, that spirit will spread to a throng of fiesta-goers expected to approach 12,000 by the last night. Food — including enchiladas on Saturday — will be served from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a mariachi group and the church’s fiesta dancers performing in between. A live band will close out the party each night from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Former chairman and co-organizer Buddy Langford said the fiesta began as a small fundraiser in the early 1980s after St. John’s split its parish. “I don’t think anybody ever planned on it growing and going,” Langford said.

Lemus said the event now typically generates enough funds to donate about $25,000 to St. John’s Catholic School to underwrite its Spanish language program or conduct repairs on the school or church. A program started in 2002 also provides $750 scholarships to up to six local high school graduates of Mexican descent.

A moonwalk on both nights and carnival games will be among the attractions for the younger crowd. But for a more authentic fiesta staple, look no further than the cascarones, or decorated egg shells filled with confetti, intended to be spilled over the heads of fellow revelers.

It wouldn’t be a fiesta, Lemus added, without the heat. Forecasts call for humid days with highs in the low- to mid-90s. But by 7:30 p.m., when the sun slinks behind the tree line that runs down Kentucky Street, Lemus said the conditions grow nicer.

Also on display this year will be photos and texts detailing the history of the Mexican families who settled in Lawrence to work on the railroad in the 1920s and 1930s. Lemus said that community, called La Yarda, produced many of the families living in Lawrence today.

“We celebrate that this weekend,” he said. “That was a quiet generation. They didn’t really talk about hard work; they just did it. Now my generation wants that story out there. They worked hard and created their own American dream."

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