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Cinco de Mayo Family Fun Festival returns to Willmar after 4-year hiatus

The Cinco de Mayo Family Festival will boast a variety of live entertainment, with scheduled performances from a number of Aztec and folklorico dancers. Music will also be provided by Willmar’s Esplendor Norteno Band. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Following a four-year hiatus, Willmar will once again play host to the Cinco de Mayo Family Festival.

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Roosevelt Elementary School and in synchrony with The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, a United Nations–sanctioned international holiday for the promotion of diversity issues.

First held in 2006 as a way to celebrate the region’s growing diversity, Cinco de Mayo Family Festival doubles as a fundraiser to provide scholarships to area students.

Interest dwindled for a period, according to Javier Valenzuela, chairperson for the festival. But the event’s committee regrouped and has partnered with dozens of area businesses to bring the festival back.

“It’s an important event because it allows us to highlight our community,” Valenzuela said. “We have a diverse community in Willmar. And it’s not just the Mexican or Latino cultures we want to celebrate. We chose Cinco de Mayo as a theme because it’s obviously a well-known celebration among our large Latino culture. But we’ve had people from all cultures attend our previous festivals and that’s what we want to keep going.”

This year’s event will feature a slew of activities for children, to include bouncy houses, inflatable rides and an obstacle course.

For adults, a jalapeno eating contest should draw a crowd.

“It gets spicy,” Valenzuela joked.

The festival will also boast live entertainment, with scheduled performances from Aztec and folklorico dancers.

Music will also be provided by Willmar’s Esplendor Norteno Band.

A contest dubbed Willmar Idol — in the vein of the popular and long-running reality T.V. singing competition “American Idol” — will give local artists their time to shine.

A four-team soccer tournament will also be held across town at the fields neighboring the Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center. A number of teams competed last weekend in a one-day elimination tournament to determine the final four.

“There will be plenty for people to do,” Valenzuela said.

More than 15,000 people attended the previous six festivals (2006-2012), according to promotional material for the event that was provided by Robert Valdez, a Willmar businessman who serves on the Cinco de Mayo Committee. As a result, the committee has awarded $10,000 in scholarships to Willmar-area students.

“It’s just a way to give a little bit back,” Valenzuela said.

The festival is free, but food will be provided by vendors at a cost.

Roosevelt Elementary School is located at 1800 19th Ave. S.W. in Willmar.

The Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center is located at 1601 22nd St. S.W. opposite Bill Taunton Stadium.

For more information, call Valenzuela at 320-231-8157 or email

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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