Hacienda Festival Gathers Community


Isabel Owens, Staff Writer

The Hacienda Foundation and the Moraga Parks and Recreation Department, financially sponsored by the Lamorinda Montessori School, hosted the 6th annual Cinco De Mayo festival at the Moraga Hacienda on May 4. The festival is a traditional celebration of Mexican heritage, stemming from Mexican victories in the Franco-Mexican War.

The festival featured a live mariachi band, authentic Mexican food, and activities that attracted both children and adults. “We think it’s very important to bring in the families, so with this event we have the pinatas and jumpies for the little kids; the adults enjoy seeing the kids playing the games, and the tile painting and face painting,” said Scott Bowhoy, a member of the Hacienda Board of Directors and co-chairman for the Cinco De Mayo festival.

Campolindo students played an integral role in the staffing of the festival, volunteering to sell food and oversee children’s booths. Sophomore Ania Kossakowski, a member of the Leo Club, helped kids make their own tortillas. “During the year we get assigned events and we help out,” she said.

“Our community is multi-diverse, there’s a lot of different backgrounds, so it’s good to see other people’s heritage,” Kossakowski explained.

Freshmen Cathy Tang and Quinn Cuddihy and junior Dennae Wleczynski were enticed into volunteering by the promise of extra credit from their Spanish teacher. “My Spanish teacher brought it up one day and I just thought it would be fun to do, and hang out with some kids,” explained Tang. “I’m ensuring the safety of the kids on the bouncy houses.”

Wleczynski and Cuddihy manned the food service stations, serving salad, tortillas, and chicken to customers. Wleczynski believes that the event is essential in educating the public on Mexican culture. “I think it’s really cool to see that people who obviously don’t know much about the culture can come and enjoy and learn more,” she explained.

Cuddihy has attented the festival for the past 3 years, and enjoys taking part in the festivities. “It helps people get together,” she said.

Miramonte students also assisted in the production of the festival. Senior Joe Li is a member of the Miramonte Key Club, an organization that serves the community and helps out at local events. He has volunteered for the past 2 years, and believes that it has been a great experience. “It’s like helping out our community and seeing the children really happy and enjoying themselves,” he said.

According to Bowhoy, the festival began as a plot to draw public attention to the Hacienda building. “What we started with was the idea that a lot of people in town don’t even know that the Hacienda exists, and here it’s a public park, and we wanted to make the citizens know that it’s here so they can come and enjoy it,” said Bowhoy. “We seized initially upon the Cinco De Mayo festival. With the Spanish theme of the Hacienda, we thought it would fit in with the history of Moraga itself.”

“I think it’s neat because Moraga has a very strong Mexican heritage, with our name, so it seems very appropriate that we have a holiday to honor that,” said Ellen Beans, director of the Moraga Citizens Network. According to Beans, the network is an “organization of people who want to be informed of what is happening in our town.”

Beans volunteered to sell tickets for beer and margaritas at the gathering. “I support the town in every way I can, and this is an important event, and so I just said ‘ok, I’ll come and volunteer,’ and I see so many people I know,” she said.

Dave Trotter, a Moraga Town Councilman, has volunteered at the celebration for several years. “I typically volunteer to help sell soft drinks, and then I go work the crowd, and ask them to make cash donations,” he said. He collects donations in a large sombrero.

Trotter’s favorite event of the festival is when kids line up to take turns batting at pinatas, as he has personal roots in this tradition. “When I was younger, at Christmas time, my grandfather each year had a Christmas pinata. It’s a big tradition in Mexican-American culture,” he recalled.

One of the more popular attractions of the celebration is the Mexican tile-painting booth. “No matter how young they are, they love doing it. It’s generally a lot of fun for the kids. I think it’s great because it’s not button-pushing, it’s not on the iPad, it’s real,” said former Hacienda Board of Directors member John Anderson, who introduced this activity to the festival last year.

Anderson believes that the Mexican festival is designed not only to expose people to the park, but to provide an environment for families to come together. “They’re looking for events that have meaning and also that bring the community together, so they picked Cinco De mayo, which is May, and Oktoberfest for October,” he said.

“Those are the 2 main events we have, we’re looking for more activities that would be good to bring people to their park,” said Bowhoy.

Proceeds from the Cinco De Mayo festival and the Oktoberfest go toward the renovation and restoration of the Hacienda building. “They [City of Moraga] have limited funds for the upkeep of the Hacienda, so we thought this would be a good way to help improve it. It’s an old building and it needs a lot of work,” said Bowhoy.

According to Anderson, the Hacienda pavilion has recently been renovated, and is now “beautiful.”

Although much effort goes into the production of the Cinco De Mayo festival, Bowhoy believes that the work is well worth the effort. “There’s a lot of moving parts to bring together the mariachis, the food, the publicity, the jumpies; it’s a lot of work, but when it all comes out we really love it,” he explained.