Live music with a Latin and a rock flavor, along with art demonstrations and a quirky, colorful parade highlight Cinco de Mayo on Cherokee Street. The event starts runs from 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Saturday in south St. Louis.
“It’s definitely one of the most unique parades that I’ve ever seen,” said Jason Deem, who co-organizes the celebration with Will Liebermann. “It’s something I think would only happen on Cherokee, because we’ve got so many artists and so many creative people who come together to make it happen."
The festival, in its 15th year, should be muy bueno.
“The festival’s been increasing in size every year,” Deem said. “And we’re expecting a huge crowd this year because May 5 actually falls on a Saturday. We’re adding a third stage this year, the parade has been getting bigger every year, and we’ve got more vendors than we’ve ever had, so we’re expecting a really big crowd.”
The music, with 15 bands on the schedule, should be a diverse treat.
“Secret Sound Society does the Gringo Stage, so they’ve typically got a variety of local St. Louis rock bands,” Deem said. “The Main Stage is booked by Mysterio Productions, and that’s primarily Latino music. We also have a third stage this year, the Love-O-Rama Stage, and that’s a number of local bands as well.”
The People’s Joy Parade, organized by the Community Arts and Media Project (CAMP), offers an eclectic mix of parade participants.
“We have a lot of creative people who come out,” said Jenny Shriner, CAMP’s events coordinator. “They create their own costumes and wear them. There are a lot of artists. We have different performers, (including) stiltwalkers and other characters who come out and participate in the parade. We also have children and people from the neighborhood. They come out with their families and dress up in different costumes of their choosing.”
The mix typically features art bikes and cars that are decorated very colorfully and creatively — the Banana Bike Brigade was one of the highlights of the Mardi Gras Festival — and the art cars include the Cinco de Volvos and El Caminos carrying performers and people in costume. In addition, there will be Gigante puppets carried on huge bamboo frames, angels, a good luck dragon, dance troupes, roller derby girls, Elvis impersonators, Mexican wrestlers, non-traditional marching bands and floats that are only limited by the imaginations of the people assembling them.
“We’re going to have all sorts of fantastic delights,” Shriner said. “It’s going to be really cool. We just have all different types of people participate. The really creative, best of the best of St. Louis come out for this one.”
People can spectate, or they can participate.
“People can still sign up on parade day if they just decided, 'You know what? I’ve got the day off, I want to take the kids down and we want to walk in the parade.’ I’d be willing to sign people up parade day,” Shriner said. “I’ll have permission slips to make it easy for everyone to join us.”
Shriner, who conducted costume workshops in April, said the sky’s the limit.
“They can use old Halloween costumes, they can be creative and paint their face – we’ll have some face painters down there doing some face painting for the kids,” she said. “We’re just really trying to reach out and get people involved, because it’s so much fun.”
A foot beat choir allowing people to sing and walk in the street will also be part of the parade.
“It’s led by Celia Shacklett, who is a really well-known local musician in St. Louis, and she plays guitar and will have other people playing with her,” Shriner said. “I think we have a tuba, and a saxophone, and another lady who plays ukulele. We’re going to have some kiddos singing too, so people are welcome to join in with that group if they want to, on parade day. They call it the foot beat choir because you’re dancing in the street and singing at the same time.”
The parade starts at 1:11 p.m. at the corner of Cherokee and Minnesota. It will head east on Cherokee to Nebraska, north on Nebraska to Utah, east on Utah to Iowa, south on Iowa to Cherokee, and east on Cherokee to Texas. Participants will meet at noon to get organized.
Shriner is enthusiastic about the possibilities.
“It’s going to be so amazing,” she said. “I’m really excited for it. It’s a fun way to celebrate our fantastic community on Cherokee.”
From Highway 40 or 44, exit at Jefferson and go south. Continue south on Jefferson about 1-2 miles to Cherokee. To go towards the Festival Area make a right on Cherokee. The festival area starts at Iowa and Cherokee.