The city of Woodburn is kicking off Fiesta Mexicana, Woodburn's most-attended annual cultural event, this Friday. The event, which celebrates Woodburn's Mexican and Latino heritage with food, entertainment, a car show, soccer tournaments, a parade and more, will take place Aug. 4-6 at Legion Park.
The Woodburn tradition began in 1964 as an event held by the chamber of commerce that recognized the area's Latino agricultural workers at the end of the harvest.
The event has undergone name changes, from "Fiesta Time" to "Fiesta Days" to "The Mexican Fiesta," and has been run by different organizations throughout its 54 years. But the event has been held annually since its founding, with mainstays like music, food, dancing and a parade playing starring roles since the event's first year.
Now, the event attracts tens of thousands of attendees. In 2016, the event drew a crowd of 22,000 people, up from an estimated 18,000 in 2015.
This year's event features the same traditions that have made the festival so popular, with a few new elements added in.
For one, this year's Fiesta Mexicana is the first since the event received designation as an Oregon Heritage Tradition by the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department's Oregon Heritage Commission. In order to qualify for the honor, events must have at least 50 years of continuous operation, characterize the heritage of the state, have a demonstrated appeal to a broad range of people and have a demonstrated reputation that distinguishes it from other events in the state, among other requirements.
The commission unanimously voted to name Fiesta Mexicana an Oregon Heritage Tradition in January this year.
The 2017 Fiesta Mexicana also features a new title sponsor: McDonald's.
With its sponsorship, the fast food chain is bringing to the event the McDonald's Fiesta Tour, a traveling 50-foot-wide interactive exhibit celebrating Latin music. The exhibit features Latin music memorabilia, digital games, a photo booth, product sampling and more.
And this year features the first Selena Tribute Singing Competition, which challenges competitors to perform in the stylings of the late Mexican-American pop icon Selena.
But the event is largely filled with old favorites, including the parade, which will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Woodburn Aquatic Center (190 Oak St.). All participants must arrive by 9:30 a.m. in order to secure their spot in the parade. The parade's grand marshal is Teresa Alonso Leon, the Oregon state representative for House District 22 and longtime Woodburn resident. The parade route meanders down First Street from the aquatic center, turning right onto Lincoln Street and left onto Front Street, then following Hardcastle Avenue to Park Avenue, ending at Legion Park.
The Fiesta Mexicana Car Show also takes place Aug. 5 in the Legion Park parking lot. Gates open at 10 a.m. for participants, and trophies will be awarded at 3 p.m. in the following categories: lowrider, classic, truck, bicycle, best trike, mayor's choice, queen's choice and best in show.
And the city of Woodburn will crown the queen of the Fiesta Mexicana Royal Court at 6:30 p.m. Friday. This year's court features eight young women from the Woodburn area.
Music and other entertainment will be available throughout the festival, including performances from the Woodburn High School Mariachi Band, Ballet Folklorico dancers and Lucha Libre wrestlers.
And nearly 50 vendors and other booths will be on-site, selling food, toys, clothing and more.
The event begins at noon on Friday, and at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The event ends at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free all day on Friday and is free until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. After 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, admission costs $5 per person for ages 11 and older. Ages 10 and younger enter free.
For more information on the event, see the Fiesta Mexicana special section included in the Aug. 2 print edition of the Woodburn Independent.