Crowds gather to celebrate Hispanic culture

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Dancers performed in traditional costumes.

Good weather and plenty of entertainment brought out a solid crowd of 500-600 people for Saturday's Cinco de Mayo celebration in Carl Miller Park.

Music, dancing, games and a variety of food and craft booths highlighted the activities, which celebrate a key battle over the French in the war for Mexican independence.

Mayor Joe B. McNeal, who was one of the few speakers at the event whose address was delivered in English, thanked the largely Hispanic crowd "for all that you contribute to our community, your loyalty, your hard work, your leadership... that co-mingles with all the other cultures" represented in Mountain Home.

"Cinco de Mayo has always been a celebration of the culture that has always been a major part of this community," he said.

He also noted that he would not be taking part in the jalepeņo eating contest this year, because he was tired of coming in second.

Rogelio Valdez, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Commerce and Labor, in a speech delivered in Spanish, praised the local Hispanic leaders (the Elmore County Hispanic Organization -- ECHO) for promoting traditional cultural values, and stressed the importance of the Hispanic population to the state's economy.

He also said he was looking forward to the "great potential" of Marathon Cheese and the jobs it would be offering in the community."

ECHO presented its scholarship recipients with checks ranging from $250 to $1,000 to help the high school students go on to college. ECHO, and the Cinco de Mayo celebration, help raise funds to encourage advanced education by area Hispanic students. The top scholarship, of $1,000, was given to Jasmine Soto.

During the afternoon's activities folk dancers performed in traditional costumes and a Mariachi band wandered through the park serenading participants in the celebration.

Overall, it was one of the best turnouts in years for the celebration of Hispanic culture.

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