It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon at Centennial Mall in Craig when snow flurries outside finally lifted and bright sunlight streamed through a skylight above.
Below, two lines of dancers fanned out their traditional Mexican dresses and waited for the music to begin.
A strum of recorded Spanish-style guitars suddenly sounded, and the dancers took to their feet. They twirled in unison, and their dresses — illuminated by bright light from above — spun like brightly colored tops.
The occasion was Cinco de Mayo — the annual commemoration of Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 — albeit a few days early.
For seven years, Craig residents have celebrated the Mexican holiday in grand style. Saturday marked the second time the event has been hosted at the mall.
This year, the mall played host to an estimated 1,000 area residents.
The event featured live music by the Craig band Furioso de la Sierra, a Chihuahua race, a costume contest, 16 vendors, a bounce room for children and traditional Mexican dancing by the Rifle Folkloric Dance Group.
After the 1 p.m. dance, Rifle couple David Jimenez and Elvia Marin — two dancers from the 20-member troupe — relaxed before their 2 p.m. demonstration.
Jimenez — dressed in white pants, white shirt and a red kerchief — said he has been dancing with the group for two years.
Jimenez said his initial participation was the result of coercion.
“I started (dancing) for my girlfriend,” he recalled. “She said, ‘You better dance.’ And I was like, ‘OK.’
“But now, I like it.”
Marin — Jimenez’s girlfriend — laughed in agreement.
Rifle resident Jorge Flores is also a member of Folkloric. He said the group started five years ago with humble aspirations, but it has blossomed since then.
“We started doing it just at the church,” he said. “Then, people started inviting us to do it. So now, we do it whenever people ask us to do it.”
Another big event at this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration was a Chihuahua race. The race was slated to run at 11:30 a.m., however at race time, only one dog was signed up for the event.
Eventually, two more dogs were enlisted, and the race was run in the early afternoon.
Craig resident Karina Montes entered Justin, a 2-year-old Chihuahua, into the race. Justin took top honors.
“It feels awesome,” Montes said of the win. “I got toys, treats and a small trophy, and Justin got a small medal.”
Montes, 12, said she plans to race Justin next year, and she hopes more Chihuahuas will compete.
Centennial Mall Manager Vicki Hall said the event — aside from some small glitches — was a success.
“Everything went very, very well,” she said. “I’m very pleased. It had a nice turnout.”
The event was sponsored by Vallarta’s Mexican Restaurant, which is located in the mall. Manager Jose Nunez said this was the second year his restaurant was involved.
“We’re going to do it again next year, definitely,” he said. “Hopefully, next year it will be even better.”
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