Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Mexican food and drinks is a big deal in Jordan and throughout the United States — but not in Mexico.
Jordanite Teena Medick didn’t know this until the city started a festival celebrating the Mexican holiday, with the intent of highlighting the diversity Jordan’s Hispanic population brings to the community. While the choice of celebration may not be ideal, the very fact that Medick and many other Jordanites now understand its roots and role in Mexican culture stands as a testament to the success of the festival’s primary goal.
“This whole event was started as a way to bring diversity to Jordan,” Medick said. “I think what it has done is spotlight some of the amazing talents in our area. I can’t say enough about the food, it’s amazing.”
Medick got involved with the festival shortly after she moved to the area in 2016. She already had experience running a charitable organization for more than a decade when she was approached to chair the festival. According to Medick, the festival first started to develop when a couple members from Hope Lutheran Church approached Mayor Tanya Velishek about celebrating diversity in the community. Considering Jordan’s large Hispanic population, Cinco de Mayo was quickly identified as a possible celebration. Medick and the others soon reached out to Hispanic members of the community to help develop the event.
“One of the recommendations to me was that we should move this to the fall (Mexico’s Independence Day is Sept. 16), but we have Heimatfest, so this is our way of celebrating,” Medick said. “It’s about opening doors and talking about the history of their culture. That has raised awareness about people understanding that it’s not a big celebration in Mexico.”
After months of planning and coordinating, Jordan’s first Cinco de Mayo celebration was held across one block of Water Street on May 5, 2017. Organizers expected around 250 people; they estimate closer to 1,500 people showed up.
Over the next couple of years, volunteers and organizers have responded to attendee and vendor needs and have expanded the festival to double its original size. After fielding a crowd of about 2,500 last year, the festival will close down two blocks of Water Street this Saturday, May 4 and begin at 5 p.m. At one end of the street there will be live music from a mariachi band; the other end will feature a DJ.
One block will be filled with kids games and activities. The games will be operated as a fundraiser by the Jordan Girls Fastpitch Association, which returns with its pitching speed RADAR booth. There will also be art, maracas and crafts for kids to work on.
The other blocks are filled with a variety of food vendors — emphasis on variety.
“We have one rule: Nothing can be duplicated at any booth,” Medick said. “Each of the food vendors are serving something different. Each of the alcohol vendors are serving something different.”
Local food vendors include Delia’s All-in-One, with burrito bowls and quesadillas; Church of Yahweh, cooking up corn in a cup and nachos supreme; Nueva Vida Church, authentic tacos; Spanish Tax Service, frying up chicharrones; Lady A’s, crafting artisan cupcakes and the Feed Mill with burgers and other American fare. Visiting vendors include Guardian Angels from Chaska, preparing pupusas, and El Huarache from Shakopee, with fried tacos.
The festival is expanding its number of alcohol vendors this year. Roet’s Brewery typically brews a lineup of special Mexican beers for the occasion. Other local alcohol vendors are Moola’s, featuring margaritas; The Pickled Pig will feature tequila sunrises and palomas; and Linsey’s with homemade sangria.
Other space will be occupied by vendors selling traditional goods such as pinatas, jewelry, purses and clothing. Each vendor pays a fee to secure their spot. The money collected from the vendor fees go directly to the Jordan Food Shelf. This year, the food shelf used some of the proceeds from the festival to donate gift certificates for healthy food and produce at Celebrate Jordan.
In addition to what goes to the Food Shelf, some vendors give a portion of their profits back to the community. Medick said Church of Yahweh uses the money to fund services for local residents who can’t afford to pay bills or to provide other necessities.
“They served five families last year with the money they raised from the Church of Yahweh booth,” she said.
With several vendors and participants hailing from across the Twin Cities Metro, including the mariachi band and DJ, Medick has been impressed with how Hispanic members of Jordan’s community have spread word of Jordan’s festival to other cities.
“It’s bringing in Mexican communities from all over into Jordan,” Medick said. “I’ve learned a ton. I’ve tried different foods I never would have, you meet people from your community that didn’t know you were a part of the community and you’re embracing them.”
One of the most prominent examples of introducing diversity into the community is the success of Delia’s All-in-One, a locally owned Mexican food service. The owner, Delia Tinoco, volunteered by cooking food for Church of Yahweh at Jordan’s first Cinco de Mayo. After her authentic food was well-received by the community she started a catering business with her family. And now, thanks to her exposure through Cinco de Mayo, she is looking at options to open a restaurant in downtown Jordan.
“To see that evolve is amazing, and to grow with that family has been so cool to watch,” Medick said.
This year the festival is dedicated to Dick Ames, a generous local business owner who died in January. The festival falls on Ames’ birthday this year, and organizers felt it would be a great way to celebrate the life of one of Jordan’s largest benefactors.
“To me, it’s a big old birthday party for him. Let’s keep his memory alive and celebrate what he has brought to town and bring awareness to the different cultures we have in town,” Medick said.