GARDEN CITY — On a warm, sunny Saturday, minutes after the Garden City Community Mexican Fiesta parade rolled down Main Street, Stevens Park was absolutely bursting with food, organizations, people and pride.
Ninety-three years into its run as one of Garden City’s largest annual events, Fiesta is still a local staple — a celebration of Mexico’s independence from Spain and landmark gathering for southwest Kansans eager to honor a culture at the heart of the region.
This year, the theme, “Abrazando Cultura,” or “Embracing Culture,” was as always about unity, said Fiesta Committee President Angelica Castillo-Chappel.
“It’s just to remind everyone that the mission of Fiesta is cultural awareness and loving each other … ” Castillo-Chappel said. “Overall, it’s making sure that people understand this town is not segregated and we’re all working for the same cause: to have a better life, to have equality.”
The all-day event was booming from start to finish. On one end of the park, guests packed in and around benches to watch live entertainment from local Latino bands and traditional folkloric dancers. Surrounding them were representatives from local organizations or family-friendly activities like face-painting or piñatas. Everywhere, residents stood in endless, criss-crossing lines leading back to one of many authentic Mexican food vendors.
Among the dozens of vendor booths were representatives from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as visitors from Hoxie and Wichita, Castillo Chappel said. Early on, a man stood on stage before the crowd, calling out Latino countries in Spanish. The audience cheered for each one.
Instead of naming a parade marshal, the Fiesta Committee used the platform to honor Tyson and its employees in the wake of the August fire that closed the plant through at least the end of the year. The plant will pay its full-time employees for 40 hours a week during the interim period, and that matters, Castillo Chappel said.
So, when the Fiesta Committee was at a loss for who to name parade marshal, they took the opportunity to honor the plant. At the parade, Tyson employees and their families walked together down the street, waving flags from a myriad of different countries. Onlookers cheered as they walked by. The moment fell in step with what Fiesta is about, said Jesse Nuñez, vice president of the Fiesta Committee.
“It added a unity. It showed Tyson what Garden City was about and showed Garden City what Tyson’s about. They stand behind their workers 100%. The communities support each other.,” Nuñez said.