Mannel Park was the place to be on Saturday, with over 1,000 gathering for the return of the Cinco de Mayo celebration after the cancellation of the event for the past two years due to the pandemic.
Deanna Rodriguez-Root and her Cinco de Mayo Committee put together a festival that rivaled any that have taken place in the recent past. There were over 70 vendors on hand with a variety of food, clothing, jewelry and many other products and information.
There was the traditional Mexican fare, with tacos, burritos, tortas and roasted corn, in addition to funnel cakes, corn dogs, ice cream treats and other festival food.
A number of local groups performed, including the school bands, local folklorico dance groups and some mariachi bands that played traditional songs that encouraged the dancing. Groups from out of the area were featured, including Brinco del Chinelo from Mexico, mariachi group Oro y Plata, and the Moonlighters, which entertained with a mix of traditional and new music.
The Shafter Boxing Club held exhibition matches, showing the residents of Shafter why the group has made our small city a major force in youth boxing nationally. The group just came back from Missouri in the last two months with another national title, with "Fast Eddie" Rodriguez capturing another individual national title.
In addition to the entertainers and vendors, the event also has become a popular destination for families that have reunions and gatherings. The Argellanos, who have family members that dot the map now, use this event for their reunion every year, letting their family come together from their different homes, stretching from Shafter and Bakersfield to Arizona.
"This is a chance for us to not only celebrate our heritage, but also for us to come together as a family, giving us a chance to see family we might see only this one time every year," said Raul Argellano, who was here from Yuma, Ariz. "I love this event, and I love this town,"
Another local who was reminiscing about his heritage and childhood was Richard Rivas, Sr. Rivas was here with Sylvia Leon and his son Richard Rivas, Jr. Talking while he was taking pictures of his son on the train that was making its way through the park, Rivas talked to Leon about the event when he was growing up. "I remember as a kid, it was so much smaller, with a few booths, maybe a couple of rides, some food and a little parade. It is so much bigger now. I just love coming here, and I love how big it is now, with so much more things for us to do."
Margaret Ramirez, who was here with her family and her sister's family from Bakersfield, said that they are attending and participating in the event in memory of her nephew's father, Stanley R. Perez. Ray, his son, inherited a couple of cars when his father passed away. "They were big loves for him," he said. The family decided to enter the cars in the parade, showing them off as they made their way down Central Avenue.
"He would have loved this so much,".Ramirez said.