ROCHELLE — On Saturday, Rochelle’s downtown gazebo area was filled with area residents celebrating Cinco De Mayo. The festival was held for the first time after two years off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event featured food and craft vendors, live bands and folkloric groups and activities for children. The festival’s lead organizer, Rochelle City Councilwoman Rosaelia Arteaga, said a committee was put together this year to bring the event back after COVID-19 and it took two months of planning to put on.
“I believe it came together because Rochelle is very good about celebrating other cultures and they like all sorts of festivals,” Arteaga said. “Years back, we started it with the school and it continued. After the pandemic, it kind of fizzled. So we started a committee and started to get it together. We like a good celebration. We like to have all the cultures of Rochelle come together and celebrate."
Arteaga said she thought people were eager to get back out and enjoy a nice afternoon with activities for the whole family after a cold spring and the pandemic.
A similar event, Fiesta Hispana, was held last September and was well-attended. The city councilwoman enjoyed seeing the case be the same on Saturday.
“I feel very proud to see all of this here today,” Arteaga said. “I feel very proud that we brought a committee together to help do this. It makes me feel proud. I like to see different cultures. I like to see people smiling and just enjoying themselves. And it's a beautiful, sunny day."
Arteaga believes it’s important to celebrate everyone’s heritage and said the city and its residents have been very welcoming to events like Fiesta Hispana and Cinco De Mayo. She enjoys seeing different cultures come together.
"When I started working at Lincoln School, we'd do ballet folklorico with all the students,” Arteaga said. “And we had kids from all sorts of backgrounds. Some with zero latino background and they'd participate. And it was wonderful to see. Everybody would come together and dance and enjoy each other. It's about enjoying each other's culture. It's about learning and coming together. That's what I like, to bring people together and not divide them."
The hardest part about putting Saturday’s Cinco De Mayo event together was the organization, Arteaga said, but she was thankful for the committee this year for making it easier. It will meet Wednesday to discuss how the event went and what is needed for Fiesta Hispana in September.
“We've been planning for over two months,” Arteaga said Saturday. “I think today, I feel relaxed. And I'm to the point where it is what it is. We'll take care of whatever we can that people need today. We just try to take care of everybody here. We want people to come to our meetings and tell us what they thought. Join us and help us grow."
The city councilwoman thanked residents for coming out and making the day enjoyable.
"I'm just grateful for Rochelle and everybody who came out,” Arteaga said. “Everybody here who came and smiled and had a good time. I just want to say thank you for coming.”