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Calexico kicks off annual Mariachi Festival May 13

April 09, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — City officials broke out the promotional trumpet Monday to announce a full week of events from May 13-19 to celebrate Calexico's 94th anniversary and the 11th annual Mariachi Festival Sin Fronteras.

This is the first year the festival will be in Calexico. In past years it was in Brawley or El Centro. To mark its debut here, the Calexico Chamber of Commerce has rescheduled a number of events for the week of the festival.

For instance, the 94th anniversary celebration will be in May during the week leading up to the Saturday night festival concert instead of in April. Plus, the chamber will not host a Cinco de Mayo celebration, choosing instead to concentrate on throwing a festival-closing mariachi Mass and party May 19.


To kick off the week of festivities May 13, the Calexico Arts Commission will award a trophy to the Calexico business that goes the extra mile decorating its storefront and interior. During the entire week, businesses and some employees will be decorated in a mariachi theme, according to chamber Executive Director Hildy Carrillo-Rivera.

On May 14, MANA of Imperial Valley will host a Mariachi Festival week kick-off carne asada get-together on the chamber grounds.

"Attendance is free!" exclaimed Carrillo-Rivera.

After polishing off a few burritos, party-goers can pick up an official T-shirt featuring the 2002 Mariachi Festival logo. All proceeds from the sales go to Imperial County's Raintree Quest Foundation, a charitable organization that helps growth and development of disabled and special education children through equestrian programs.

All proceeds raised by the festival, including sponsorships and T-shirt, ticket and beverage sales, help support the foundation, said festival founder Helen Lopez of El Centro.

On May 15, the Calexico Soroptimist chapter will hold its fifth annual "Noche Mexicana: A Wine Tasting" at the Friendship Restaurant and Hollie's Lounge. The $20 tickets are on sale at the chamber offices at the corner of highways 111 and 98.

Soroptimist president Rowena Carrillo said money raised at the event will be used to provide scholarships. In addition to wine-tasting, attendees will be treated to a poetry reading, cultural arts displays and hors d'oeuvres.

This is the biggest fund raiser of the year for the Soroptimist chapter. Last year more than $17,000 was raised. As befitting the mariachi week theme, Carrillo-Rivera said everyone should be dressed their "Mexican best."

On May 16, Mayor Pro Tem John Renison said the day's big event will be a reception honoring Calexico's pioneers at the historic Hotel De Anza. He said Baja California Gov. Eugenio Elorduy Walther is expected to make an appearance to salute the pioneers.

"He has confirmed," Renison said.

On May 17, festival sponsors and city officials will attend the Mariachi Festival gala dinner at the historic hotel.

On 10 a.m. May 18, the Calexico Arts Commission will conduct a mariachi workshop at Calexico High School for all those interested in learning more about the musical genre.

A beginners' workshop for mariachi buffs will be staged from 5-7 p.m. May 16 at the high school. On May 17, the commission will have an intermediate workshop, same place, same time.

On May 18, the festival itself will be staged at Calexico's Crummett Park. Tickets are on sale at the chamber's office and Web site, Prices are $25, $20 and $15.

Los Angeles-based mariachis Mariachi Sol de Mexico and Mariachi Reyna headline the 7 p.m. show. Afterward there will be a fireworks display.

On May 19 there will be a mariachi Mass and festival in Rockwood Plaza. After services, there will be music from local mariachi groups, food booths, arts and crafts.

During Monday's press conference, Renison lauded Lopez for bringing the festival to Calexico. At the end of the conference, though, she deflected credit and singled out Carmen Durazo for praise. Durazo is a member of the Calexico Arts Commission and Imperial County Arts Council who suggested bringing the festival to Calexico.

As for the continued viability of the festival here, Lopez said, "I can't see it going anywhere else."

City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva said the location is a natural due to Calexico's proximity to the border and Mexicali.

Speaking of the border … Grijalva wondered aloud whether the Immigration and Naturalization Service would get into the spirit of the festival "sin fronteras" and "open up their gates."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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