This year's Mexican celebrations were banner events for East Chicago and surrounding communities despite the red flags signaling excessive costs to prepare a family-oriented pageant, parade and festival. In spite of the added costs, attendance was remarkable.
The selection and coronation of the queen and her court was choreographed professionally, and the contestants performed their talents to many bravos even though we broke even with all the costs.
The parade was enjoyed by literally thousands who lined the streets in Indiana Harbor, a tradition that started in East Chicago in 1926. Many more enjoyed the two-day festival at Block Stadium. The multi-ethnic cuisine was delicious and the music and dancers were fantastic.
Some suggested we should cancel the festivities because of the added costs, but the members, with a voice of solidarity, said "we can do it". "We just have to work harder and ask our friends to help."
And help they did, friends like Frank Mrvan, Rogelio Zepeda, John Bunich, John Petalas, Peggy Katona, Ameristar Casino, North Coast Distributor Our Lady of Guadalupe and especially the Foundations of East Chicago, this year's parade marshal.
The committees did a stand-up job to provide a much needed image-building event for East Chicago. Those sitting on the sidelines do not see the many hours of work needed to present a celebration of such caliber. Many see the finished product but fail to note the costs that run into the thousands, such as the cost for security, music, insurance, sanitary facilities, stage, annual scholarships for the royal court, etc.
No one member receives any payment for their hard work and time. Any profit derived goes for the upkeep of our little hall that is used by other nonprofits as a meeting place and for groups of folkloric dancers free of charge.
Budget permitting, donations have been awarded to families in need of medical and burial expenses etc. Anyone is invited to view our expenses incurred during the festivities. Preparations are now being made for next year.
Tony Barreda is president of East Chicago-based Union Benefica Mexicana. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.