Ron Lopez of Modesto doesn't attend Cinco de Mayo events every year. But he did stake out a spot in the shade Sunday at the celebration held in Graceada Park.
"We got hungry," Lopez said. "I told my wife, 'Let's go to the park to get something to eat.' "
The food booths at the festival sold a variety of Mexican and Salvadoran food. But food was not the only attraction Sunday at area Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
The Graceada Park event, held by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, included a Mass, bands and dance performances.
About 8,000 people watched musical performers and enjoyed family activities at Tuolumne River Regional Park.
The festival under the oaks was organized by the Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County.
More activities are scheduled for today at Whitmore Charter School in Ceres and the King-Kennedy Memorial Center in Modesto.
A day to have fun
Cinco de Mayo honors Mexico's victory over a French invasion force in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. France invaded the country in an attempt to establish a satellite state in Mexico.
Today, the celebrations are a way for Central Valley Latinos to honor Mexican heritage and culture.
Adults paid a $5 admission fee at the Tuolumne regional park event to hear musical acts such as Jessie Morales, Gustavo Rivera and Banda Magay.
There was plenty of traditional food, plus bounce castles and horse rides for the children. Young people could win prizes by doing chin-ups at a Marine Corps recruiting booth.
"It is a family event," said Linda Stafford of the Latino Roundtable. "People just gather together to have fun and listen to music."
Manteca resident Alfredo Solis volunteered to sell Popsicles at one of the nonprofit fund-raising booths. It was the first time he had taken his children to a Cinco de Mayo event, he said.
"It is part of our Latino culture," he said. "It is good to bring them out to show them the history of Mexico."
Several tables were set up to register people to vote, distribute information or raise money for efforts to improve the lives of Latinos in the Central Valley.
A valley chapter of the Association of Mexican American Educators was raising money to send Latino students to college. Activities director Kitty Martinez said it's hard for many Latino parents to pay for college tuition, especially with the slumping economy.
"This is where the community gets together," said Martinez, a teacher at Fairview Elementary School in Modesto. "People are not making a lot of money working in the fields or in the canneries. College is expensive."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.