By Jimmy Potts

jpotts@brownwoodbulletin.com

The streets of downtown will come to life with traditional Hispanic dancing, singing and various other activities Friday for the third annual Brownwood Cinco de Mayo Celebration.

In its third year, Brownwood Cinco de Mayo Celebration organizers expect to double the festival’s inaugural year’s attendance and Anna Hernandez, Brownwood Arts Council board chair, attributes the increase in attendees to it being an intimate event where people can come and experience the tastes, sites and sounds of Hispanic culture.

“We have more promotion then we’ve done (in the past) and sponsors,” Hernandez said. “Everybody likes the idea. You go into any business and people say ‘Oh yes, we can’t wait for this to come. We’re going to be there.’”

The celebration kicks off 5 p.m. Friday with various food vendors, artisans and entertainers welcoming an expected 5,000 attendees, which double the number of attendees participating in inaugural Brownwood Cinco de Mayo Celebration in 2016. Last year, the event brought in 4,000 visitors and Hernandez attributes the exponential increase to participants providing an intimate environment to learn and experience Hispanic culture.

“All of a sudden it feels like it’s blowing up,” Hernandez said. “We have more vendors food-wise and we have more non-food activities and space. [Each year] we try to make it a bit more festive, traditional oriented community and not just for Hispanic culture but for anybody … It’s a small community, not your big metroplex stereotype. [Performers] get special attention. They feel more at ease, more at home in this type of situation - like family.”

Those not looking to fill their bellies with authentic Hispanic food or empty their wallets on authentic Hispanic artwork can head to The Vault, a recently opened event space, for the Brownwood Arts Association Spring Show or visit Pat Coursey Park for a live, open-mic performances featuring local artists throughout the night. The Lyric Theatre will feature live acts throughout the night with performances by the Guadalupe Dance Company (5:30 and 7:30 p.m.) Matachines de Sta. Maria Reina de la Paz (7 and 8:15 p.m.) and 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. shows by Mariachi Los Toros of Austin, who have attended each year’s event. All three performances are free to the public and sponsored by La Botana Mexican Bar & Grill.

“The mariachis from Austin have been with us from the beginning,” Event Organizer Dean Kiesling stated in an email to the Bulletin. “They are a huge crowd favorite. This is (also) the first year for the Guadalupe Dance Company.”

Those looking for a more hands-on experience can participate in the Homemade Salsa Contest at Tres Leches from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., a jalapeno eating contest at 9 p.m. and a Grito contest at 9:15 p.m. Kids can get into the action with horse-drawn wagon by White Diamond Stables and pony rides by Hirom’s Pony Rides from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. as well as various other activities and games throughout the night. There will also be a piñata busting beginning at 5:45 p.m. with a new piñata every 15 minutes until 8:30 p.m.

For more information regarding the contests, performances or vendors contact the Brownwood Arts Association online at www.brownwoodartsassociation.org by email at brownwoodartscouncil@gmail.com or visit the Facebook page.