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Midvale Journal

Family run, family fun: Midvale’s Cinco de Mayo celebrates 30 years

Jun 02, 2017 11:11AM ● By Travis Barton

Live music performed throughout the day at the amphitheater for the Midvale Cinco de Mayo celebration. (Midvale Cinco de Mayo Facebook)

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com
 
What started with a few dozen people in 1988 has blossomed into one of the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the Salt Lake Valley.
 
Midvale City Park played host to the 30th annual Midvale Cinco de Mayo Celebration on May 5-6.
 
“It’s a lot of work but we love it and we do it every year because we love it,” said Dave Leimsieder, director of the Boys & Girls Club and event board member.
 
The two-day event saw bingo, multiple booths and tents, games, a drum bus, face painting, Latin American cuisine, bounce houses and live music.
 
While the event has been ongoing since Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office, it began with Fausto Rivas in 1988.
 
“His vision is to do everything we can, invite everybody, have a good party, have some really good music and really good food,” said Dolores Pahl, vice president of the event and Rivas’s daughter.
 
It started at Rivas’s family restaurant on Center Street growing bigger and bigger every year until the city offered the park more than 15 years ago. The family has continued to carry it on with Pahl and her husband Michael serving as the event directors and other members of the family serving as primary volunteers.
 
“It’s been fascinating having it in the family. It’s challenging at times and it’s not easy ‘cause what we do, and what all of us do, is 100 percent of our time is volunteered,” Pahl said adding it was her father’s vision to have no entrance fee for the occasion.
 
Pahl said they strove to make sure everyone was welcome. While there was Mexican food to go along with pupusas (a Salvadoran dish) empanadas and horchata, they also had hot dogs, hamburgers and funnel cakes.
 
“We encompass diversity. We want to be all inclusive no matter what it is, we want you here,” she said.
 
With thousands attending the event throughout the two days, many probably saw the constant live music being played at the amphitheater. Whether it was Rivas’s granddaughter Sonia Lopez performing the national anthem or his other grandchildren presenting traditional folk dances found throughout Mexico.
 
“It’s intergenerational,” Leimsieder said. “Because it’s run through the family, now this third generation is starting to take on some leadership opportunities and roles.”
 
Event organizers also wanted to honor those who have performed at the event throughout the years—many musicians donate their time.
 
“We wanted to highlight the greatest bands we’ve had in last 30 years and honor the heritage of the actual event itself,” Leimsieder said.
 
Such honors extended to this year’s closing band, Grupo Fuego Tropical. Pahl said they have performed almost every year of the celebration and this was their first time closing the festival.
 
Leimsieder said the celebration is an opportunity for lesser known artists to attain more visibility.
 
“There’s some really great artists, we’re able to expose a lot of really young and upcoming Latino artists in Utah,” he said.
 
Pahl had to turn down eight bands this year because they ran out of room, she’s hopeful of adding a second stage in the bowery adjacent to the amphitheater to incorporate more musical acts.
 
“I hate turning them down, I can see why my dad is so passionate about bringing them in,” Pahl said.
 
The music is meant to be benefited in the long run with any leftover proceeds from the festival going to the neighboring Boys & Girls Club to upgrade the recording studio in the Midvale location.
 
“We’re trying to modernize that to not only be invigorated about music, but also give them to the chance to participate in musical opportunities,” Leimsieder said.
 
The event also included what Pahl described as a “beautiful speech” from Mayor JoAnn Seghini. Pahl and Leimsieder expressed their appreciation for the support they receive from the mayor, city officials, Unified Fire and the Midvale Police precinct.
 
“Chief of Police [Jason Mazuran] has been here most of the day. That has never happened, we’ve never had the chief of police out here,” Pahl said. “It’s been awesome to see them all out here and so very willing to just be here and available for whatever we need.”
 
The festival serves as possibly the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the valley. For Dahl, it holds significant meaning having in Midvale.
 
Dahl grew up in Midvale attending Copperview Elementary School and Midvale Middle School. Her kids attended Midvale Elementary School and she said its programs, like ones found at those schools or the Boys & Girls Club, that proved vital for her family.
 
“I think that’s what inspires me and gives me more, just that energy to keep going because I want to give back. They directly helped me, they directly helped my children,” Dahl said.