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Thousands enjoy Cinco de Mayo at Orchard Valley
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Couples enjoyed dancing to the music of Latin Magic Saturday at the Cinco de Mayo celebration at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Vince Smith was among the thousands of people who browsed the dozens of booths in the parking lot of the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley shopping center Saturday morning as part of the Cinco de Mayo celebration hosted by the South San Joaquin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

A former Manteca resident that now makes his home in Merced, Smith said he was impressed with the turnout and was happy to see that communities like Manteca here in the Central Valley are paying more attention to cultural festivals that cater to the growing ethnic populations here in California.

“I think that things like this are great because they bring the community together, and they bring focus to the cultural aspect,” Smith said. “Anytime you can bring people together to share their traditions with others then it’s truly a great thing.”

Dozens of vendors lined the parking lot near Best Buy offering everything from business services to a wide array of food. Visitors enjoyed Saturday’s beautiful weather and the music coming from the community stage scheduled to run for the length of the event.

Manteca Police Department Gang Enforcement Officer Jason Hensley was on hand to meet-and-greet those who stopped by to say hi – showing off one of the department’s new Dodge Charger police cars and working towards the community policing that helps build relationships with people in the community.

And for the families, more than a dozen rides were available to keep the kids entertained as part of the celebration of the victory of the Mexican Army’s unlikely defeat of the French Battle of Puebla in 1862.

According to South San Joaquin Hispanic Chamber President Pat Rabelo, the entire event took just over two months to put together. He hopes it will become an annual event at the same location to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and help bridge the gap between both Hispanic and Caucasian businesses in the community.

“The funds that we’re raising from this are going towards scholarships to help people learn English as a second language, and also people who want to learn Spanish as a second language,” Rabelo said. “We have a unity to promote partnerships between businesses that might otherwise have language barriers so that everybody can work together.

“But looking around right now everything is coming to fruition. All the hard work and the fruits of the labor of all of the people who helped put this together is now here. It’s been a fun ride, that’s for sure.”