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Mariachi festival a resounding success

May 21, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Saturday's Mariachi Festival Sin Fronteras here was one of the best in the event's 10-year history, according to festival founder Helen Lopez.

"I would say that it is just right on the top floor," she said.

Around 2,000 people attended the concert. Thousands more attended a mariachi Mass in Rockwood Plaza on Sunday and a week's worth of events leading up to the event.

Adding up ticket sales and proceeds from T-shirts, around $45,000 was raised.

Most of the money will go toward paying expenses such as lighting and sound systems used to stage the concert. Remaining funds will be donated to Imperial Valley's Raintree Quest Foundation, a charitable organization that helps at-risk and disabled kids participate in equestrian programs.

According to Lopez, this year's festival almost eclipsed its banner year. In 1997 close to 3,000 people attended the festival when it was at the Imperial County Expo. After 1997 the mariachi festival moved to Brawley, where attendance never matched previous levels.


After a disappointing festival last year in a return to the Imperial County Expo, Calexico officials lobbied to bring the festival down south.

Lopez and non-profit partner, Imperial Valley Raintree Quest Foundation, agreed to give Calexico a chance to host and she said the decision couldn't have been better.

"(Calexico's Redevelopment Agency) and the Chamber of Commerce put a tremendous amount of time and energy into it," she said.

The festival went so well that there is talk of creating a 5,000-6,000 permanent venue to stage the event, Lopez said.

The city's Redevelopment Agency board recently has talked about creating a cultural arts center, possibly downtown, as part of the overall revitalization of the area. Lopez said all the organizers did a great job of staging the event at Crummett Park.

"It was absolutely perfect. I looked around and felt like we were at Woodstock — we really did it right this year," he said.

Calexico chamber Executive Director Hildy Carrillo-Rivera said, "Everyone you spoke to was so happy that they were there. It's a happening that's never happened here.

"People said it was one of the best ones that they've been to; professional lighting, sound staging," she said.

One of her favorite moments was the performance of the East Los Angeles-based all-female mariachi group, Mariachi Reyna.

"I loved them! They were so classy. They make you want to be young again so you can start all over and do this," he said.

The highlight of Reyna's set were renditions of songs made popular by slain Tejano star Selena.

"A lot of people got up and danced and they got a standing ovation at the end," Carrillo-Rivera said.

To close the concert, headliners Jose Hernandez y Mariachi Sol De Mexico brought out all of the aspiring mariachis who had participated in mariachi workshops on the stage.

"It was the cutest thing. They all got up for the finale to play with their little violins," Carrillo-Rivera said.

The show closed with a fireworks spectacular.

Asked about the overall economic impact of the festival, Carrillo-Rivera said, "The hotel rooms were all filled to the max and the restaurants were all filled."

Lopez gave credit to the chamber and the city for bringing in a lot of people from Mexicali.

To keep the momentum going in Calexico for next year's festival, Lopez and her staff and city officials will meet in a few weeks to think about planning the next event.

Mariachi Sol De Mexico and Mariachi Reyna are already booked.

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

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