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FESTIVAL OF THOUSANDS STREET PARTY KICKS OFF CINCO DE MAYO IN L.A.

Byline: Alex Dobuzinskis Staff Writer

With a plush dog under his arm - a toy he won with a basketball shot - 17-year-old Sergio Obregon on Sunday enjoyed the sights and sounds of Fiesta Broadway, a giant street party that kicks off Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Los Angeles.

Joined by his mother and his brother, Obregon started his day Sunday attending Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, as he does every week.

``And then in the afternoon, what better way to spend it than here having fun,'' said Obregon, a high school student.

Tens of thousands of people seemed to agree, as they strolled along Broadway from First Street to Olympic Boulevard, visiting vendor booths, playing carnival games, tasting food, listening to music and socializing.

Fiesta Broadway, now in its 15th year, is one of the largest celebrations in the nation related to Cinco de Mayo. The street party is held in the country's largest Latino shopping district.

Obregon, who was born in Downey, said he was half Hispanic and half German and that the festival gave him a chance to see different aspects of Hispanic culture.

Maria Magdelano Leon, 44, of Los Angeles said she liked the vendor booths at the street festival and seeing all the products and services available.

``It gives you an opportunity to dream,'' said Leon, who was at the event with her mother and her two young daughters, who Leon stays at home to care for.

Broadway is normally busy on weekends, but the foot traffic was even heavier on Sunday, with the street closed off to cars for the festival and four stages set up for such scheduled performers as Alicia Machado, the former Miss Venezuela.

Alice Flores of El Monte watched the stage performances, but, with temperatures at the event above 90 degrees at times, she was too hot.

``Where the singers are, they don't have shade or chairs; it's too crowded,'' Flores said.

But her husband, Luis, 37, who was shaded by a cowboy hat, said he enjoyed the festival and, most of all, the food.

At the Olympic Boulevard end of the festival, children performed folklorico dancing on a stage set up by McDonald's, as a Spanish-speaking Ronald McDonald acted as the master of ceremonies.

People wanting to cool off lined up at a booth operated by a water filter company to get a free drink.

Others stood in line to get an autographed picture from Patricia Lopez and other VJs with television station KJLA (Channel 57), aka LATV, which airs Spanish and English music videos.

``This is mainly a family festival,'' said Felipe Romero, 42, of Canoga Park, a machinist who was at the festival with his own family.

``Everyone who comes here has a good time listening to the artists, eating'' and looking at the promotions, Romero said.

Jose Basques, 35, of Los Angeles said he was originally from Guatemala and not from Mexico, so the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday he usually celebrates. But he enjoyed the festival, joined by his son and his mother.

``People want to have fun on the weekends; this is a good way to have fun,'' said Basques, who makes clothes for a living.

After putting sunscreen on her young daughter's face, Anna Buenavea, 50, of Los Angeles said she was not intending to spend much money at the festival.

``If there's something on sale, then I will buy something; otherwise I'm here to look,'' she said.

In addition to the commercial booths, those attending the festival also came across dozens of political activists, with supporters of President George Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry both operating booths and registering people to vote.

Homeless Eugene Carr, 35, also made a day out of it, gathering hundreds of discarded bottles and cans to take to a downtown recycling center. Carr, who planned to make several trips to the center, said he expected to make between $30 and $40, depending on how busy the center was.

``There's only one open, and everyone in the downtown area is going to be there,'' he said.

Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304

alex.dobuzinskis(at)dailynews.comend!!

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3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) Clown Edgar Rios, above, twists and shapes balloon animals for children attending Sunday's Fiesta Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Le Nueve Ley Del Norte, below, from Sun Valley, performs on one of the entertainment stages.

(3) Thousands mill about under a toasty April sun during the Fiesta Broadway on Sunday.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 26, 2004
Words:759
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