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Cinco de Mayo

10,000 gather in Roseland for Cinco de Mayo

Sarah Molina, 2, tries to play a trumpet that she borrowed from Banda Pacifica member Marcos Isaac, before the group's performance during Roseland's Cinco de Mayo celebration in Santa Rosa, California on Sunday, May 5, 2013. Her father, Rigoberto Molina, is also a member of the band.

BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat
Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 6, 2013 at 7:08 a.m.

Delectable wafts of grilled meats, candy corn and spices swirled around the heart of Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood Sunday.

The annual Cinco de Mayo celebration once again transformed the old Albertsons parking lot on Sebastopol Road into a festival of more than 10,000 people celebrating the food, dance and cultures of Mexico.

"Cinco de Mayo is a day when we all get to celebrate our culture, more than any other day," said Fernanda Diaz, 16, of Santa Rosa, a junior at Roseland University Prep.

With a sparkling crown, yellow gown and red sash, Diaz walked through the food stalls with her younger siblings and mother. She savored her last moments as the reigning La Reina del Cinco de Mayo, or queen of Cinco de Mayo.

She later handed the crown to University Prep sophomore Yezli Florez, 16, at a ceremony at the main stage.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when the Mexican Army defeated the French in the skirmish. The battle has become a symbol of Mexican identity, primarily for those living outside of Mexico.

Sunday was the festival's eighth year. Community organizers banded together to start an official event in 2006 after years of spontaneous May 5 parties brought confrontations between law enforcement and revelers.

Since the Roseland community took charge of the annual celebration in Santa Rosa, the day has been a positive one.

"It's going great, as it does every year," said Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm, who stopped by a booth to chat with event volunteers.

At a stage on the southeast corner of the old Albertsons lot, the announcer warned: Don't try this at home.

Gerardo Sanchez, 13, wearing the a white Taekwondo uniform and a red advanced belt, launched into a series of flips and in the last rotation split a board with his foot. The crowd clapped and roared.

Sanchez, an eighth-grader at Cali Calmécac Language Academy in Windsor, performed with the Cali Kicks Martial Arts Academy from Santa Rosa.

The group and other local acts performed on two stages, with student dance troops, rock bands and professional mariachi musicians in sharp suits.

El Molino High School students Marta Aparicio, 19, and Ariana Montaño, 18, took a break from their volunteer duties to watch the folklorico dance group Quetzalén swirl to the drum beat.

People formed a deep circle around the dancers, hoisting children onto shoulders and holding their phones in the air to take pictures.

Horses pranced up and down Sebastopol Road, closed to traffic during the festival.

Children lined the curb for a chance to pet an Azteca quarterhorse ridden by Felix Cabrera of Santa Rosa.

"What's the horse's name?" asked 9-year-old James Montes of Las Vegas, who is visiting an uncle in Santa Rosa.

"Soñador," said Cabrera, who works as a foreman for a Petaluma slaughterhouse.

At a booth for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Sonoma County, Fabiola Espinosa, 27, of Santa Rosa greeted a friend, Jose Garcia, 28, of Santa Rosa.

Garcia stopped by the booth after eating barbecue, signed up for a newsletter and headed toward the second stage where a rock band played.

Espinosa had been waving young people over to the table to tell them about the chamber's Young Professionals Network for people between ages 20 and 40.

"It's a very diverse group of the younger generation who want to get into leadership. They're bankers, entrepreneurs starting a restaurant, health professionals," said Espinosa, waving for another group of people to stop by.

Among rows of food stalls, children dug their hands into bags of candy corn, fathers carried heavy turkey drum sticks and teenagers stood in circles eating tacos.

Volunteer Rene Meza of Windsor, a former chairman of the event, was coordinating more than 100 volunteers, half of them teenagers, with a radio.

"Music is playing, there are bands at both stages, and the smell of pupusas is in the air," Meza said.

His son, 8-year-old Joey, came for the bounce house at the north end of the lot, and his daughter Andrea, 11, came for the folk dancers.

But Meza, a Redwood Credit Union branch manager, said he came to celebrate Roseland and the neighborhood's future.

"We all envision something special here. There are bright days for Roseland ahead," Meza said.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie. johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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