62nd Mexican Fiesta features authentic mariachi band

Dancers

A dance group performs at last year’s Mexican Fiesta at South Park.

Mary Queen of Peace Parish will sponsor the 62nd Mexican Fiesta this Saturday in Billings’ South Park.

It’s going to be a big year, said Bill Contreraz, one of the festival organizers.

“This year we’ve been really excited because we found a true mariachi group from Las Vegas that has been gracious enough to come out for a price we can work with,” Contreraz said.

In the past, various local bands have played for the fiesta, he said, and this will be the first time they’ve brought in a professional mariachi group. And not only will Mariachi Mexico Antiguo be playing for a dance Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Convention Center.

Contreraz said the band will also perform a preview in the South Park gazebo at noon Saturday, and again Sunday during the 9 a.m. service at Mary Queen of Peace, 3411 Third Ave. S.

Mary Queen of Peace was known as Little Flower Church until three Catholic parishes—Little Flower, Holy Rosary and Our Lady of Guadalupe—were consolidated into one a few years ago. Mary Queen of Peace will remain in service until a new church, for which fundraising continues, is built on the South Side.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, across the street from South Park at 523 S. 29th St., is being leased by another congregation, but the church will again be the site of the fiesta’s popular Mexican dinner, which will be served from 11 a.m. until the food runs out.

Traditional fare at the dinner will include chili verde, enchiladas, tortillas, refried beans and rice.

The festival itself will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will include music, singing, dancing by children’s and adult groups, children’s activities, a raffle and a silent auction. The 19th annual Fiesta Car Show will also be part of the event and will feature more than 100 stock, classic and custom cars.

Cars

Festival-goers check out the Fiesta Car Show during last year’s event

In addition to games and pinatas for the kids, Contreraz said a new feature this year will be a storytelling session, with several stories in Spanish.

The fiesta started as a fundraiser for Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, which was built on the site of what used to be a roller-skating rink. Contreraz said his parents were involved in the first festival and were founding members of Guadalupe.

Asked about changes he’s seen since he was a kid, Contreraz said, “In terms of the awareness of culture, it has grown considerably.” So has the Hispanic population. Contreraz said it was estimated at about 10,000 a few years ago, if you include outlying areas like Huntley and Ballantine.

Mariachi Mexico Antiguo will perform at the convention center, 5500 Midland Road, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets for the dance are $15 for singles, $25 for couples and $125 for a table of 10.

For more information about the fiesta or for table reservations for the dance, call Contreraz at 839-0904. For more information on the car show, call Jay Krug at 348-4033 or Char Krug at 628-8872.

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