Hola! to Cinco de Mayo fest in Kennett Square

Posted: May 03, 2007

Cinco de Mayo may be synonymous with discounted margaritas to some, but to Mexican residents of Kennett Square it's day to celebrate their heritage with a street festival.

This Sunday, a Mexican organization called Casa Guanajuato will host Kennett's seventh annual Cinco de Mayo festival, transforming two blocks of State Street into a Mexican marketplace full of color, culture and culinary novelties.

Two stages will showcase traditional dances and music and the crowning of a "Queen of the Festival." The street fair will include kids' games and activities and vendor and information booths. Mayor Leon Spencer will officiate over some of the ceremonies and Karina Calva from the Mexican Consulate will attend.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's independence day, but it is the most celebrated Mexican holiday in America. It recognizes the victory of Mexican soldiers over the French in the battle of Puebla in 1862. And even though Mexico may seem a long way from Chester County, more than 28 percent of Kennett's population is of Latino origin, and more than 6,000 residents and neighbors attend the event.

"It's a very tough time for the Latino community because people see us as illegal immigrants or criminals," said Juan Carlos Navarro, president of Casa Guanajuato, which promotes Mexican culture.

"This festival allows us to show our energy and show that we can bring something positive to the community," he said.

Navarro, who has lived in America for 29 years and in Kennett Square for 13 years, worked with about 15 other bilingual, Latin American-born volunteers on the Cinco de Mayo committee to bring this year's event to life.

The festival will feature traditional Mexican food like Mexican corn on the cob, Mexican hot dogs and elotes (roasted corn on the cob). Local restaurants will serve select dishes from their menus.

The popular La Michoacana HomeMade Ice Cream shop will serve Mexican ice cream flavors including corn, rice pudding, avocado, passion fruit, mango, kaluah, chili and mushroom, as well as traditional flavors.

The festival allows us to "bring a little bit of Mexico to our town," said Noelia Scharon, one of the owners of La Michoacana. "We like to remind people of their roots and introduce others to a taste of our culture."

Scharon, who was born in Puerto Rico, and her Mexican husband moved to Kennett Square in 1994 for the opportunity to own a business. It was her husband, Juvenal Gonzalez and his partner, Maneul Rodrijuez, who brought the Mexican ice cream flavors to the town.

But adults aren't the only ones getting into the action. Teen dance troupes such as TNT Aguilas, Boy Scout Troop 888 of Kennett Square, and five school service teams will participate..

"It's a fun day and a great way to get students involved with cultural awareness," said Jeanne Searer of the Cinco de Mayo committee.

Sponsors also include the Community Awareness Committee of the Mushroom Industry, Genesis Health Care, Phillips Mushroom Farms Inc., W.A.C. Mushrooms Inc., and many others.

"[Ultimately], we are celebrating our identity and showing that we are part of the community," Navarro said.

If You Go

Kennett Square's Cinco de Mayo festival takes place Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. around the intersection of State and Union Streets.

Schedule of events:

Noon - Dignitary luncheon and ceremonies

1 p.m. - Coronation of the queen of the festival

2 p.m. - Dance performances

3:30-4 - Dance contest

Free parking is available in the Genesis building parking lot on Union Street.

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