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FESTIVAL BRINGS FUN, FUNDING TO CENTER.

Byline: Melissa Schmitt Daily News Staff Writer

For 6-year-old Alex Castellanos, Saturday's Cinco de Mayo celebration in Canoga Park meant getting to spend a day with dad.

For his sister, Irma Castellanos, 10, it was a cool day to listen to music, play games and see friends.

For the Catholic Charities Guadalupe Community Center on Hart Street, it was a time to bring people in the community together, advertise the center's services and raise some money for funding those services.

The center's celebration Saturday, three days before the actual Cinco de Mayo holiday Tuesday, was one of at least four throughout the San Fernando Valley on Saturday afternoon.

Even with its limited playground and yard space, organizers of the noon-to-6 p.m. celebration expected to see at least 1,000 faces at the event, according to the event's emcee, Nick Montano of Chatsworth.

Cinco de Mayo, explained Montano, enjoys much greater popularity in the United States than it does in Mexico.

Contrary to a widespread belief in the United States that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, Montano said, it is really the celebration of a turning point in the Mexican Revolution when Mexican fighters defeated the French.

The fifth of May, he explained, is the day that marks the Mexican army's victory over Napoleon's French army in the 1862 Battle of Puebla.

``It's known as the War of the Bakers,'' Montano said. ``Because those fighting in that battle were mostly all bakers and field hands.''

While May 5 was a turning point in the war with the French that eventually led to Mexican Independence Day, Montano said, Independence Day is not until Sept. 15.

``Cinco de Mayo is not a highly celebrated holiday in Mexico,'' Montano said. ``It is celebrated more by Latino-Americanos. It's just one of those days that is a good day to party.''

Bryan and Michele Savage of Woodland Hills, while happy to get the informal history lesson from Montano, were at Saturday's festival enjoying the food and music.

``We go to Mexico a lot,'' said Michele Savage, while eating taquitos, enchiladas and tacos with her husband, Bryan. ``So we thought we'd come over here for the afternoon.''

The Canoga Park Jazz Band strutted their stuff on stage, followed by dancers, a mariachi band and square dancing.

In between shows, Montano raffled off donated prizes including weekend getaways, beauty baskets, video baskets, dinner certificates and finally $500 cash.

With the stereo system blaring Michael Jackson's ``Billy Jean,'' Guadalupe Community Center Administrative Assistant Anastasia Rose explained the event could pull in $10,000 for the center.

While not a major fund-raiser, Saturday's festival will help fund the thrift store, food bank, counseling services, budgeting courses and recreation activities at the center, Rose said.

CINCO DE MAYO FESTIVITIES

Some Valley and Los Angeles events scheduled to celebrate the Mexican holiday:

Today

Universal CityWalk Fiesta with arts and crafts, music and dancing. Free admission, $6 parking, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call (818) 622-4455.

St. Finbar Catholic Church and School Fiesta. 2120 W. Olive Ave., Burbank. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Call (818) 846-6251.

Olvera Street carnival and celebration. Entertainment, food, artisans and a carnival with rides and games. Free admission. Located between Los Angeles and Main streets, north of the Hollywood Freeway, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (213) 485-6855.

Cooking demonstrations, games and mariachis. Encino Farmers' Market, 17400 Victory Blvd., Encino, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call (818) 708-6611.

Northwest Family Fiesta celebration. Free admission, art exhibits, demonstrations and parking. Chatsworth Train Depot, Old Depot Plaza Road (north of Lassen Street and west of Canoga Avenue), 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (818) 341-2428.

Tuesday

Dancing, prizes and food, Hyatt Westlake Plaza, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village. Admission $5; 5 to 9 p.m. Call (805) 496-5630.

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos, box

PHOTO (1) Esmeralda Villalobos, 4, slurps from a snow cone at the Cinco de Mayo festivities in Canoga Park on Saturday.

(2) A mariachi band performs Saturday at the Catholic Charities Guadalupe Community Center.

Gus Ruelas/Daily News

Box: Cinco de Mayo festivities
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 3, 1998
Words:696
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