If you’re downtown this weekend, expect to see floats, Latin dancing, churros and more mariachis than you can shake a pinata stick at.
The third annual Fiesta Las Vegas is scheduled on Sept. 14.
“That weekend is very important to the Mexican people,” said Lilliam Hickey, former president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce who emigrated from Cuba in 1964. “There is always a festival around then. Sept. 16 is Mexican Independence Day. Here many people think that’s Cinco de Mayo. But that’s not celebrated as much in Mexico as it is here.”
Anastacio Del Real, the festival’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said the event was timed to mark the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
The theme for this year’s Fiesta Las Vegas is Celebrate Your Culture, and it kicks off at 10 a.m. with a parade up Fourth Street, beginning at Gass Avenue and ending at Stewart Avenue. Organizers say last year’s parade drew 10,000 people, and the Fiesta drew 20,000.
At noon, the parade concludes and the Fiesta at the Fremont Street Experience begins. It is set to fill two blocks on either side of the 3rd Street Stage, and part of Ogden Avenue will be shut down for booths and exhibits.
Food from Mexico, Central America and South America are to be available for purchase.
“We’ll have all the traditional favorites and a bunch of stuff people might not be as familiar with but is delicious,” Del Real said.
The entertainment on the 3rd Street Stage is set to begin at noon with folk and traditional music. In the early evening, speeches from local dignitaries and politicians are planned, and at 8 p.m., dance music is planned until the festival wraps up at 11 p.m.
“We had about 80 groups last year,” Del Real said. “That includes floats, marching groups, school bands, equestrian groups and more. … It’s a growing event. It should just keep getting bigger.”
“There are a lot of Central American countries that celebrate Independence Day around then, too,” Del Real said. “The festival is a way to connect with our traditions. It’s particularly important for people who grew up here and don’t know those traditions as well.”
Del Real said many of the attendees have roots in Mexico but that the festival is for everyone, and organizers hope to have people in the parade and festival from many countries in South America and Central America.
“The Colombians are playing a big part in the event this year,” Del Real said. “I know that people from Paraguay and Bolivia will be involved. We’ll see a lot of people and traditions form many places.”
One way participants are set to celebrate their culture is through “comparsa,” traditional costume and dance.
“People will be in their traditional costumes from their towns, doing dances that are specific to their home,” Del Real said. “The costumes and movements all have a meaning that they know, but even if you don’t know that, you can still enjoy the colorful costumes and dances.”
“We’ve got a lot of big names and some great local performers coming,” Del Real said. “Gildardo Alvarez, Mariachi Mexico Antiguo, Esencia Colombiana, Banda Zacatecana de Tony Flores and Alegres de la Sierra, a popular Mexican band.
Del Real said the Fiesta began because organizers felt there was a need for an event that got people together to celebrate their heritage.
“We were lacking a tradition here in town,” he said. “Now it’s become a big thing. The folks and the cultural groups really look forward to it.”
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.