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Fiesta celebrates 50 years this weekend

by: INDEPENDENT FILE PHOTO - Children enjoy the carnival rides at the Fiesta Mexicana 2012. Carnival rides will return to Legion Park along with Fiesta this Friday through Saturday.It would be hard to miss the 50th anniversary theme at this year’s Fiesta Mexicana.

It begins when guests walk through the gates at Legion Park, where tickets are $5 each (ages 11 and under are free). But the 50th person through the gate is free.

“We definitely want to play up the 50th year,”?said Ruby Wolfer, Woodburn Area Tourism coordinator who is putting on the event as part of the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce.

Just inside the gate will be a booth of Fiesta history, and it will be manned by people who have had a stake in Fiesta over the years.by: INDEPENDENT FILE PHOTO - Live music on the main stage and family stage at Fiesta Mexicana is a big draw for families to Legion Park Aug. 2-4.

This year’s organizers are also remembering those who started the event back in 1964, when local businessmen started what was then called Fiesta Days to say thank you to the farmworkers for their hard work during the harvest season.

Festival organizers also are honoring tradition by naming the first-ever Fiesta Queen Francisca Garcia as the parade’s grand marshal this year.

Garcia, who was 18-year-old Frances Gonzalez in 1964, was asked to sit in the float as queen, not having to go through an application process or compete in ticket sales like Fiesta princesses after her.

“I borrowed a friend’s quinceañera dress for the parade — and she would later be Fiesta queen,” Garcia said. “I truly represented the farmworkers. I worked in the fields, not like kids do to get extra spending money, but I?did it for survival.”

Fiesta will also feature food, live music and entertainment, a carnival and handcrafted art from Guadalajara.by: INDEPENDENT FILE PHOTO - People of all ages can enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Fiesta Mexicana, which will be this Friday through Saturday in Woodburn's Legion Park.

With everything going on, organizers are in need of 100 volunteers again this year for setup, clean up, parade help and more.

The first 100 volunteers signed up will receive an official 50th anniversary Fiesta Mexicana T-shirt.

Sign-up and orientation will be conducted at two different times: July 31 at 4 p.m. and Aug. 1 at 10 a.m.

Volunteer forms — as well as other information about this year’s Fiesta — can be accessed at woodburnfiestamexicana.com. Contact the Woodburn Chamber office for further details at 503-982-8221.