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The Spirit Of Latin America Comes To Lansing During The Cristo Rey Fiesta

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Peter Whorf
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WKAR-MSU
Visitors peruse the items vendors have on display in this file photo from the 2017 Cristo Rey Fiesta.

It’s been a tradition in the Lansing community for decades. This weekend, Lansing’s Cristo Rey Church will welcome thousands of visitors to its annual Fiesta. To tell us more about what we can expect from this weekend’s celebration WKAR’s Karel Vega spoke with Guillermo Lopez, the organizer of the 2018 Cristo Rey Fiesta.

This Memorial Day weekend, Lansing will transform into the heart of Latin America. The occasion? A tradition almost four decades strong. For three days, people will come from across not just Michigan, but places all over the country to celebrate with family and friends at the 2018 Cristo Rey Church Fiesta.

Organizing the event this year is Guillermo Lopez. He says one new thing visitors can look forward to this year is something no party can be without.

“More Food." Lopez said. "That’s one of the things that we have brought in a lit bit of different food. We have Tinga this year that we haven’t had before. We have fruit cups that haven’t been here for a while. And then we have aguas frescas. So that’s a surprise.”

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Credit Cristo Rey Church
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Cristo Rey Church
The weekend schedule for the 2018 Cristo Rey Fiesta.

For those listeners wondering what Tinga could possibly be, it’s a delectable mix of shredded chicken, tomatoes, chipotle sauce, onions, and beans, all served on top of a crunchy tostada.

If you’ve never had the chance to explore some of Mexico’s lesser known dishes stateside, Fiesta is your chance to sample authentic homemade cuisine without the need to grab your passport.

 

"I mean you can’t beat the food." Lopez said. "It’s homemade, we make it here at the church. It’s our own parishioners that make all the food in here. And everything’s fresh. That’s the highlight basically of the fiesta is the food, for many."

Food is one of the biggest factors that draws people to come out to fiesta. According to Lopez visitors throughout the weekend can range in the tens of thousands.

"Well, what we say is we get about twenty thousand people that come in and out. Not all at one point. But the three day event, people come, people leave." Said Lopez. "But it depends, it depends on the weather, it depends on who’s leaving for holiday on the weekend. Weather has a lot to do with it. Even though we’re under a tent. It’s just getting here. But once they’re under the tent it’s fine. People continue to have fun. We’ve had torrential rains out there and people are still having fun under the tent."

And speaking of that tent Lopez mentioned, it is massive. Sharing more similarities to a circus big top than your standard festival rain tarp. And under this tent is where you’ll find a diverse mix of vendors and entertainers. Although the thought of a massive flock of people gathered under a tent may seem overwhelming to some newcomers to Fiesta, WKAR intern Mariana Cavazos says that’s not the case, she’s been coming to Fiesta for a little over a decade.

“I think it’s a more down-home experience, because as big as it looks, it’s not." Said Cavazos. "You can walk the whole Fiesta in a little bit of like fifteen minutes. You can see everything it has for you. And that’s probably the best part. Because you don’t feel overwhelmed, You don’t feel awkward."

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Credit Peter Whorf / WKAR-MSU
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WKAR-MSU
Lucha Libre masks for sale at one of the vendor's booths in this file photo from the 2017 Cristo Rey Fiesta.

Lopez says Fiesta is all about having a family friendly experience.

“This is a fun fiesta. It’s a family fun fiesta. So, during the day for the most part it’s family oriented. With the dance troupes, with the children’s games. So it’s all about family." Said Lopez.

Of course, what’s a party without good entertainment? Lopez says Cristo Rey’s Fiesta will have no shortage of things to keep you busy.

“Entertainment? Well, we’ll have mariachi first of all on Friday. That’s kind of a tradition now. We open the Fiesta with mariachi. Then we have a church group that will be doing an Aztec dance. So they’ll portray Aztec culture. And then we have Ray Rodriguez will be singing the national anthem, and that’s to salute our veterans. As you know we have many Latino veterans. So to them and the rest of the veterans we want to salute them on Memorial Weekend." Lopez said.

Performers will range from Cristo Rey Church’s own dance troupe and musical acts, to diverse sounds like Flint’s Mariachi Estudiantil, and Lansing’s own, Tejano Sound Band.

Fiesta is a diverse celebration of latin american culture where all are welcome to attend. With the festival’s roots from Cristo Rey Church, Lopez says the highlight is on the last day of festivities.

“The church service. The mass on Sunday. It’s like the highlight of all the Fiesta. What happens there is that you have the presentation of those children who have made the first communion." Said Lopez. "In a way they’re uplifted by that. Because the community is celebrating them more so than anything else. So that’s in line with our mass and festivities.”

The Cristo Rey Fiesta begins Friday May 25th at 4pm and runs to Sunday Evening.

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