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Midvale Journal

Midvale’s Cinco de Mayo to showcase musical talent

May 02, 2019 02:09PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

Kaylee Bucio performs during the Cinco de Mayo celebration at Midvale City Park in 2017. (Photo courtesy Dolores Pahl)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

Midvale’s Cinco de Mayo celebration is back after a one-year hiatus, and the organizers have a few surprises in store.

This year’s closing band, Roberto Lopez Y El Tiempo de Mexico, will be the first group brought in from out of state to perform at the festival. It even has an international reputation — but the lead singer’s roots go back to Midvale. 

Roberto Lopez immigrated from Mexico to Midvale at age 16 in the late 1980s and was introduced to the Rivas family right around the time they held the first Cinco de Mayo celebration. “My parents would feed him breakfast, lunch, dinner,” remembered Dolores Pahl, current lead organizer and daughter of the event’s founders. 

Lopez became the lead singer of the band Sol Gris, then was recruited to join the band he’s still touring with today. This will be Lopez’s first opportunity to return to Midvale since that time, and he’ll be visiting with his two sons, who also play in the band.

“I will say that the mere thought of being invited to an event with such significance is already one of the most special memories we will forever hold dear,” said Lopez through a translator. “We can only hope that this is the first of many performances to come. We truly appreciate this special invitation and look forward to celebrating with our fans in Utah.”

Other performers will include GemStar Dance; musical acts including Grupo Fuego Tropical, El Chaman Y Su Grupo Encanto and Fiesta Tropical; and Mariachi Águilas de la Esperanza, a mariachi band made up of students from Esperanza Elementary in West Valley City.

The festival, arguably the largest and longest-running of its kind in Utah, will kick off on Friday, May 3 at 6 p.m. and run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. the next day. All activities will take place at Midvale City park and admission is free to everyone.

The Saturday activities will include live entertainment, food booths, arts and crafts, inflatable toys for the kids and UPD K9 demonstrations. 

Free bingo will again be offered the night before with games and prizes donated by local merchants and authentic Mexican food available for purchase. New this year: live entertainment by Ballet Folklorico Tradición Y Raíces during intermission. “They have performed at the festival for years, and many of the girls have grown up with the celebration,” said Pahl’s husband, Michael.

At noon on Saturday the Mexican consulate will arrive on horseback to present the Mexican flag to the Ambassador for Mexico in Utah. Then traditional musicians, singers and dancers will perform. 

“It really is like a huge family party. There’s food, there’s music, and everyone is happy”, said Pahl.

The festival is family-run and would not take place without the help of many Midvale City departments, but it is not an official city program. To reflect this, the event has been renamed “Utah’s Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Midvale City.”

The event did not take place in 2018 due to family obligations. “And my phone was ringing off the hook with people asking ‘where did you move the event?’” said Pahl.

Local nonprofit groups are also glad that the festival is back. Past year’s proceeds have gone to the Midvale Boys & Girls Club to repaint the gym and build a state-of-the art recording studio. “This year we’re looking to do something different,” said Michael Pahl. “Instead of just one group, we’re hoping to spread out the giving to reach multiple groups.” 

When asked if she had advice for someone who has never attended the festival before, Dolores Pahl answered, “Do not eat before you come. Be willing to try new things.” Her personal favorite Cinco de Mayo refreshment is the corn on the cob, which is smothered in mayo and covered with Mexican cheese.

The Rivas family began celebrating Cinco de Mayo in 1988 at their restaurant, El Sombrero, on Center Street in Midvale. Twenty-eight people showed up for that first event. By the 2010s, attendance had averaged 5,000 to 8,000 people. 

“I do it for the community,” said Fausto Rivas. “There were times when I had to pay out of my pocket [to keep the festival going].” 

“That’s why we stepped in,” interjected Dolores Pahl with a smile. 

The planning committee works for months to prepare the event. But all the planning in the world can’t guarantee that it won’t rain. 

“We know people will go out and have a good time no matter what, said Dolores Pahl. “But we don’t talk about the ‘r’ word.”