The annual Reno/Sparks Cinco de Mayo celebration is an event on the scale of many in Southern California and other areas.
The event, sponsored as always by Nevada Hispanic Services, offers one of the largest and most spectacular showcases of Latino culture in country, organizers say. The event usually centers around Victorian Square in Sparks, a few exits east of Reno on Interstate 80 and features world-class musicians, comedians, equestrian events, sporting events, food festival, auto show, film, beauty pageant and gala awards.
Visitors unfamiliar with the area should not worry too much about locating the event: It is usually visible from the freeway. In the past five years, crowds at the event have grown from 100,000 to 170,000, and each upcoming year is expected to be even bigger.
The Cinco de Mayo festival joins outdoor events such as Hot August Nights and the Best in the West Rib cook-off as regionally important events that generate massive funds for local businesses and good times for tourists. Festivalgoers have a virtual buffet of food booths at their fingertips, offering everything from tacos, flautas, burritos and Mexican barbecue to south-of-the-border deserts and beverages.
Even so, the festival may be best known for the variety and quality of entertainment. This year's musical performers included Latino acts Ellas Son, Los Pilotos de Guamuchil, Los Cadetes de Linares and El Felino de Sinaloa, as well as a troop of Lucha Libre wrestlers. While some visitors may not be fans of Latino pop, the acrobatic wrestlers are truly worth watching, especially if you have kids.
Visitors should have no trouble finding food and drinks at the event, but here are a few hints to help maximize your trip if you plan on visiting during the Cinco de Mayo festival: John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino Resort (1100 Nugget Ave.), the official host hotel for the 2009 Cinco de Mayo celebration, is as close to the action as you can get. The Nugget's twin hotel towers offer 1,600 rooms, nine restaurants, 110,000 square feet of convention space and a staff representing 32 languages, including Spanish.
If you have a problem with crowd noise continuing late into the night, though, you might want to opt for a downtown Reno hotel instead.
The popular Cantina Los Tres Hombres (926 Victorian Ave.) is usually a mob scene during the Cinco de Mayo event, which can be a good thing or a bad one depending on your outlook. While the restaurant normally has some of the best Mexican food in Sparks, some of the traditional food at vendors' booths may edge it out during the festival. But seats on the Cantina's patio are still precious during large events like this. Find more downtown Reno hotels here.
Keep an eye out for the Century 14 theater (1250 Victorian Ave.). The large fountain out front can prove to be a great pick-me-up for children (or adults) who get a little too much sun at the main event.
Article written by Matt Farley. Farley is a Nevada native who has worked for the Reno Gazette-Journal and Nevada Magazine and been syndicated by The Associated Press, Gannett News Service and the Las Vegas Review Journal.