An exuberant but smaller-than-expected crowd streamed into downtown Los Angeles on Sunday for Fiesta Broadway, an annual music and culture festival in its 26th year that draws thousands of people from in and around Los Angeles.
The festival features internationally known musicians, street food and carnival games. Music boomed on stage as children ran through the crowd with hard-won stuffed animals while the adults perused the food offerings -- from pizza on paper plates to organic kale salads from the Alegria food truck.
"Me gusta el ambiente – it reminds me of when I was in Mexico, it kind of brings back all these memories," said Cristina Flores, 46, who came all the way from Simi Valley to attend the festival, which she's been to many times over the years.
"I love mariachi," she added, a cup of iced horchata in hand. "They have mariachi, I'll be here."
Centered at 1st Street and Broadway by Grand Park and across from City Hall, the event is meant to celebrate traditional arts and entertainment while also offering a stage for up-and-coming performers from within the Latino community.
"This is a great platform to give them an opportunity to make their music heard and their talent sing," said Otto Padron, one of the festival's organizers and president of Meruelo Media Holdings.
The seven-hour lineup of performances, which began at 11 a.m., features more well-known Mexican superstars such as Lucero, a multiplatinum singer, songwriter and actress, as well as Banda Machos, which Padron said is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Also on stage will be Angela and Leonardo Aguilar, the children of beloved ranchera singer Pepe Aguilar, who are developing their own careers in music.
The lineup also includes younger pop acts such as Evaluna Montaner and L.A.-based breakout star Cheyo Carrillo, who Padron compared to Justin Bieber, describing him as "one of these digital creations, born on Youtube, and he has gone viral."
Padron added that the festival was an opportunity to celebrate traditions while fostering new talent and providing family-friendly food and entertainment. He tipped his hat to city Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes downtown Los Angeles.
Organizers say the free festival, held little more than a week before Cinco de Mayo, is the largest Cinco de Mayo festival in the world, and predicted the crowd turnout would hover around 300,000. As of 4 p.m., Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Mike Lopez pegged the attendee count at a little more than 7,000.
Rosa Martinez, 18, of Boyle Heights said she used to come when she was younger – and this year she was there to support her boyfriend, Manuel Gonzalez, a guitarist for the band Mariachi Victoria de Jesus.
"There's so many things to see – I wish there was a lot more people," she said, pointing out that she'd only seen the event promoted on "channel 22," a MundoFox-affiliated station that is owned by Meruelo Group.
Fiesta Broadway includes more traditional events such as folklorico dancers and mariachi music, officials said. Along with food and carnival rides, there was a beer garden in the back for adults. The lineup will continue until 6 p.m.
"We're glad to report the whole event has been very successful," Lopez said. "Everything has been very peaceful and cooperative."