Cinco de Mayo, or May 5, is a day to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage — and in Auburn, that would mean heading out to the second annual Cinco de Mayo Festival at Mesa Grande Taqueria.
"It's kind of like St. Patrick's Day is around here, but no one was really doing it," said the restaurant's owner, Jim Daddabbo, of the celebratory day. "My hope is it would be a downtown festival that Auburn would get to be known for; plus it benefits a worthy cause."
Once expenses are covered, all proceeds from the four-hour Cinco de Mayo party's ticket sales, food and drinks, limited edition T-shirt sales and raffle tickets will benefit the Calvary Food Pantry.
"The way things are today, they're busier than ever," Daddabbo said. "Last year we raised $1,000 for them, and I would love to beat that this year."
The Cinco de Mayo Festival at Mesa Grande is actually happening on May 4 this year. The Exchange Street Mall provides the venue for the party, and there will be plenty of extra seating on the covered patio.
Grupo Calle Uno, a 14-member salsa band from Rochester, will once again provide the Latin rhythms that will set hips a-swiveling and whet appetites for burritos, tacos, margaritas and, of course, cervesa fria (or cold beer).
"We're going to make it so you can get a beer and keep dancing," Daddabbo said of the proximity of the beer truck to the band. "When we saw them live, they just rocked the house."
Daddabbo and Mesa Grande celebrate three years in business June 30. After working in the entertainment industry in southern California, Daddabbo returned to his hometown of Auburn to raise his children, but he felt something was missing.
"I missed burritos so badly," the affable owner said. "So that's how Mesa Grande was born."
Last year, Daddabbo and his staff took a chance and threw the party, unsure it would find a place in the hearts of Auburnians.
"For an inaugural event it was a great success," Daddabbo said. "Everyone had a great time, and we had a very healthy turnout; we had over 300 people. We were skittish, I was afraid it was going to stink, but the feedback was phenomenal."
Party goers will notice only a few changes from last year's event. The band will play for the entire party and there will be prize-filled pinatas for children to try to crack open.
Other popular features will be brought back intact, like the mechanical bull, which returns to test riders' stay-in-the-saddle skills.
"The mechanical bull-riding competition is completely family-friendly," Daddabbo said. "The only thing that got bruised was people's egos."
An air mattress surrounds the bull for safety purposes, and there is a grand prize winner for the person who stays on the bull the longest.
The winner receives a free entree and drink once a week at Mesa Grande for a year. Last year, Pete Kramer stayed atop the bull the longest, a total of 28 seconds.
"People should come on down," Daddabbo said. "They will not be disappointed and they will be supporting a great cause."