Museum featuring Mexican Fiesta history

Musicians pose for a photo at the 1950 Community Mexican Fiesta.

Nearly two dozen images from the history of the Garden City Community Mexican Fiesta are on display in a short-term exhibit which just opened at the Finney County Historical Museum.

The 91st annual Mexican Fiesta begins this weekend. The Fiesta Scholarship Pageant is at 7 p.m. Friday in the auditorium of the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Building at Garden City Community College. The Fiesta parade will be 10 a.m. Saturday on Main Street, followed by a celebration in Stevens Park featuring family-friendly activities, food and live music, including folkloric dancers until 5 p.m.

Patrick and Veronica Orozco prepare for the 1961 Community Mexican Fiesta.

The museum exhibit,  “Memorias de la Fiesta,” featuring photographs dating back as far as the local fiesta of 1928, is available for viewing from 1 to 5 p.m. daily in the museum’s Front Door Gallery, 403 S. Fourth St., adjacent to the pedestrian gate at Lee Richardson Zoo.  Admission is free.

The Front Door Gallery is a small display space located just inside the museum’s entrance, and the new exhibit there also includes a few fiesta-related artifacts, such as a pair elaborately-decorated sombreros, a tiered and ruffled dress used by the Sol de Mexico folkloric dance group, a cape worn 34 years ago at the coronation of Fiesta Queen Melissa Cruz and a Community Service Award plaque presented to the Garden City Fiesta Committee during the celebration’s 90th anniversary in 2016 by the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The photos range from a scene at the fiesta’s 1975 opening ceremony, a visit by the first Kansas governor to attend the celebration, and a young brother and sister decked out in traditional clothing for the 1961 event, to a float at the first fiesta parade in 1928, a grouping of the celebration’s organizing committee in 1929 and nearly 20 other black and white images.

“We’re glad to have the Finney County Historical Society involved this year with an exhibit for the community,” said Angelica Castillo Chappel, fiesta president.  “The fiesta involves traditions that go back for generations in and around Garden City, and the display at the museum offers a chance to see some of those traditions.”

Folkloric dancers perform during the 1989 Community Mexican Fiesta.

The eight by 14-foot display will be in place for several weeks.  The Front Door Gallery hosts approximately six exhibits per year, and “Memorias de la Fiesta” follows an exhibit of historic firearms, entitled “Aiming True,” a collection of historic quilts and an exhibit about this history of the Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boys Scouts of America.

​Visitors may see various other long-term and changing exhibits too, ranging from “My Place in Time,” a 19th Century kitchen, “Take Stock in Finney County,” “Spirit of the Plains” and “Garden City Then and Now” to “Celebrate Kansas” and “Buffalo Jones, Last of the Plainsmen.”

The museum gift shop operates simultaneously with the exhibits.  Information is available at (620) 272-3664 and museum office hours run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.