By Carolyn Barbre
As sweet and spicy as a fresh picked purple onion, the Cinco de Mayo celebration at Sweet Brier Plaza on Friday, April 30, was incomparably better than any daytime celebration of La Batalla de Puebla of recent memory.
Having activities in the cool of the evening instead of the blazing noonday sun - what a concept!
Primary organizer Virginia Loya was in demand beyond any reasonable expectation. Still, she took time to answer questions from citizens wanting to know how to participate in the Friday Night Farmers Market. She would later introduce the entertainment and finally, announce the winners of the Miss Cinco de Mayo contest including Queen Serena Cisneros, runner-up Monica Perez and Little Miss Cinco de Mayo Audrey Martinez.
But as the evening was just starting to shape up, Esther Egar, who has lived in Lindsay since 1974, plopped down on one of the new benches. Looking dazed and confused, she asked, "When did all of this happen?!"
The "all" she was referring to was all of Sweet Brier Plaza. Seems she doesn't get downtown very often. In her defense, she has been caring for her ailing parents, and her father just passed away last month. And she is in the rural area of having a Lindsay zip code but on Strathmore utilities. Still . . .
The cool thing, in addition to the evening, was nobody had to go in search of vendors. They were importuning for the opportunity to set up.
Univision, the leading Spanish-language media company in the United States according to their website, was there with a satellite truck and tv camera.
Wayne Bilbrey and his wife Sirila, were selling produce harvested from their quarter acre plot by the high school, including the purple onions pictured above. They also had chilies, cucumbers, (American and Oriental) and pecans. And they promised to have some garden fresh tomatoes in a few weeks.
"Virginia said we're the type they want," Wayne said proudly. No commodity broker here. "The only thing we sell is what we personally raise," he said, whereupon his wife planted a big kiss on his face.
2003 Cinco de Mayo Queen Flor Ramirez, with contenders for titles this year, Alexis Gonzales, 8 and Daniela Gonzales, 11, were mingling and posing for photos.
Juan Gutierrez and Randy Scheer from Sun Treat Packing, were diving into some fresh hot tacos. Scheer said he is plant manager and Gutierrez said he is a supervisor. He was also selling toys, "Because Sun Treat doesn't pay me enough," he kidded.
"I think the improvements downtown are wonderful, the palm tree lined streets, murals, everything," Scheer said.
The Jerry D. Hobbs band, of Lindsay, which has been playing traditional country for 23 years, was on stage. They are reportedly the most popular band in the Valley right now.
Next came folkloric dancers from Porterville High School, who gave an enthralling performance to a captivated audience, the young ladies' purple print skirts swishing high while the young men's boots stomped and skipped to a heady beat.
Loya took the microphone and introduced Tony and Mary Hernandez who were responsible for putting the first Cinco de Mayo celebration observed in Lindsay back in 1952, and have many other civic activities to their credit. They received a warm round of applause.
Now a stage full of young ladies waited to hear the winners. But regardless of who sold the most tickets, they all looked beautiful, and the youngest ones adorable in their authentic Spanish dress.
"Did you know there was this many people in the town?!" said one incredulous spectator.
This many beautiful people.