Festival fund-raiser boasts everything from carnival games to live bands

Mitchell Armijo, age 9, took more than eight rides on the “Gyro” at the Fiesta 2005 that ran from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. (CNJ staff photo: Ryn Gargulinski)

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

Clovis residents Lindy Esquibel and Sally Romero, who grew up across the street from each other, recall coming to the annual Fiesta at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church more than 40 years ago when they were little girls.

Esquibel said that not much has changed. Well, she said, a little has changed. Esquibel and Romero were now manning a booth rather than winning a prize from one. Additions have been made to the fair such as live bands, the “Gyro” ride, and even more games and activities. It’s gotten bigger and louder — but Esquibel was specifically referring to the sense of community that remains constant as the key ingredient.

Held each May, the month of the Virgin Mary, the Fiesta has been Our Lady of Guadalupe’s biggest fund-raiser “since forever” said Esquibel. The Fiesta 2005 was no different. All games, prizes, food and garage sale items were donated from individuals and businesses in the community with proceeds going directly to the church.

“The priest doesn’t care how much money it brings in,” said Esquibel, referring to church leader Father Sotero Sena, “We care about the camaraderie.”

In addition to the booths full of prizes, the three-day event kicked of Friday evening with a talent show, dinner and skits performed by members of the parish. Saturday followed with bands, food booths and games. A mass started Sunday’s festivities, complete with a coronation ceremony of the Virgin Mary.

Sunday afternoon was back to a last stretch of fun, games and community. “It takes everyone to pull this all together,” said Sammy Martinez who has contributed to the event for the last 15 years, this year by hooking up the T-shirts with a Virgin Mary boldly emblazoned on the back. “If everyone puts in their two cents, we have a very successful event.”

The success and enjoyment spanned all ages. Mitchell Armijo, age 9, and 10-year-old Nicholas Mascarenas were busy with the Gyro ride. Armijo had ridden the spinning contraption, in which the rider is strapped and then twirled upside down in a circle, at least eight times by Sunday afternoon. Mascarenas had ridden it 10 times.

They agreed the prizes and the ride were the highlight of the Fiesta. Others, especially those who had a vehicle entered, said the best part of the festival was the car show.

Headed by Ray Gonzales, a vintage car buff with a fully refurbished 1951 Chevy Sedan and 1950 bright yellow pick up truck, this year’s car show featured 30 entries. The $10 entry fee insured a plaque just for entering, the top winners going home with trophies. “Everyone walks away with something,” said Gonzales.

That seemed to hold true for most fairgoers.

“My favorite part is giving away the prizes,” said younster Matthew Mendoza, who was working in the dime toss booth. “It makes me feel good to give things to people.”