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Local Cinco de Mayo celebration Saturday at Willmar Middle School

Megan Aguilar of Minneapolis dances with a dance troupe during the annual Cinco de Mayo family festival held last May in Willmar. This year's event is set for Saturday at the Willmar Middle School football field. (Tribune file photo by Ron Adams)

Jalapeño eating, music, food and games will be among the highlights of the fourth annual Cinco de Mayo Family Festival Saturday in Willmar.

Last year's event attracted more than 3,000 people from all over the region, and organizers hope to have at least as many people this year.

The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Willmar Middle School football field (the former junior high) at 209 Willmar Ave. S.E.

Admission is free. In case of rain, the event will be moved to Kennedy Elementary School on Seventh Street Southwest in Willmar.

Entertainment will offer a combination of local and professional performers. "We try to go with as much local talent as we can," said Roberto Valdez Jr., one of the organizers.

"We really want to invite the whole community, young and old," he added.

One of the most anticipated events is the 4 p.m. jalapeño eating contest. Valdez said he hopes to see more women entering the contest this year.

Music will be offered by Tormenta Sound, a local DJ, and a local mariachi band will perform.

The Ketzal Coatlicue Aztec dance troupe, a group of professionally trained dancers based in Minneapolis, will be there, as will the Mexico Lindo folkloric dancers from the Twin Cities.

The day will close out with the Willmar Idol talent show at 5 p.m., with appearances by El Chacal, a character dressed in black who expresses his opinion of the talent onstage. "It's the comic part of the show," Valdez said.

Food for all tastes will be available.

"We want to encourage people to understand that this is not a Latino event; it's a community event," Valdez said.

Along with traditional Latin food, vendors will be selling traditional American foods like pizza and funnel cakes.

A children's area will have a "bounce land" with four different types of inflatables for kids to play in. A tent with arts and crafts for kids will be open all day long.

Games for grownups include Mexican bingo, "always really popular with people," Valdez said. A cash booth, where people can try to catch flying money, will also be set up.

Prizes available at the games include an acoustic guitar, bicycles, camcorders, a Wii system and a GPS system, he said.

The festival commemorates the victory of an outnumbered Mexican Army over the French Army on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for May 5.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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