Celebrating local diversity | VailDaily.com

Celebrating local diversity

John Wright

Commemorating the 1862 victory of Mexican freedom fighters over Napoleon III’s army, Cinco de Mayo has come to represent the spirit of independence for the Hispanic community.

A product of the Edwards Business Association and organized by a committee of volunteers, the fifth annual Edwards Cinco de Mayo fiesta has brought together local businesses, volunteers, and entertainers for a celebration of Mexican-American culture. According to the event’s founder Susan Marquez, long-time local and owner of Fiestas, the day is designed to showcase local diversity.

“This whole day depends on sponsorship dollars and community support,” said Marquez. “I have been living here for 20 years and have had the opportunity to see the community grow. Over it’s five-year history, the event’s sponsorship has probably tripled.”

One example of such growth, says Marquez, is the participation of new groups like the the Eagle County EMS prevention team. Made up of local emergency medicine and law enforcement organizations, the EMS booth provided patrons with safety information, bike-helmets, gun locks, and free car seat inspections. This year, they even brought in a helicopter.

“This group represents an effort to bring local EMS groups together,” said Lt. Carrie Ferguson with the Eagle River Fire Protection District. “All those with prevention are here. We usually attend rodeos, safety fairs, and festivals such as this. It’s a good way to get information out to those that otherwise wouldn’t get it.”

The entertainment lineup included the salsa and Latin jazz stylings of Conjunto Colores, local artists Grupo Adventura, traditional Mexican dancers, and wandering Mariachi bands. For those with a penchant for spicy things, there were cookoffs for green, red, and exotic chilis. The Youth Foundation and Meet the Wilderness held a silent auction featuring, among other items, a mountain bike and a free year of ski tuning from Christy Sports. Proceeds from the auction helped fund the organizations’ educational activities.

According to Meet the Wilderness representative and volunteer coordinator Tom McCalden, the community support for this year’s festival has been strong. “It has been easy to find volunteers,” he said. “People seem increasingly in tune with our Hispanic population.”

“This whole day is really the brain-child of Susan Marquez,” said his wife, Marsha McCalden. “Susan just gives so much to the community.”

In following with the day’s theme, a ceremony of diversity featured guest speakers Sarah Fisher, Eagle County clerk and recorder; Mark Udall, congressman; Tom Stone and Arn Menconi, Eagle County commissioners and Mark Flemming of the Denver Broncos. The ceremony honored several individuals or organizations for their efforts to build a build a better, more beautiful neighborhood: Collen Gray of the literacy project, Juan Martinex of La Mesa, Miguel Blanco with 610 AM radio, and K.T. Gazunis of Habitat for Humanity.

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