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New location for Cinco de Mayo a hit

By Staff | May 2, 2010

Even with a new venue, the Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s annual Cinco de Mayo celebration paid homage to the culture and boasted crowds as large as year’s past
Held the Saturday before May 5, this year’s celebration was moved from the downtown district to Cultural Park, and, as a result the chamber had more say over logistics and vendor choices.
Chamber President Veronica Culbertson said there were more vendors selling Hispanic food this year because when the event was downtown, the chamber had to use vendors already contracted with the city for events.
In the past there were complaints that instead of selling Hispanic food for Cinco de Mayo, the festival had booths with hot dogs, pizza and hamburgers.
“We have more Hispanic food, we didn’t have control of the food last year,” said Culbertson.
Overall, there were 40 vendors set up in around the grounds of Cultural Park.
While the chamber had more control of the organizing of Cinco de Mayo, Culbertson said the city still helped make the festival possible.
The new spot was easier for organizers as well because streets didn’t have to be blocked off and she said that switching from asphalt to grass helped keep everyone cooler.
Cinco de Mayo was open from 5-10 p.m. When it opened not many people had shown up, but Culbertson said they usually didn’t get crowds until later. The weather on Saturday was partly cloudy and 90 degrees.
“Usually when the sun starts going down, that’s when people start coming,” she said.
The chamber expected between 5,000 and 7,000 and said all of the proceeds would go back into the chamber’s fund to pay for other festivals.
“This is just going back to our operations,” she said.
Dancers from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Fort Myers performed and donated gift certificates for lessons to the event.
Some of the live entertainment included Grupo Odas, Batey Latin Jazz, Lorenzo Duarte and Valerie Morales.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican Army’s defeat of the French armed forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.