Cinco de Mayo heats up Spanish Springs

Nida Patterson, of the Village of Fernandina, dances on the square during the Cinco de Mayo festival wearing festive attire.

Cathy Schrock gets in the Cinco de Mayo spirit with a little help from her head gear. Gathering Friday at Spanish Springs Town Square for the Cinco de Mayo Celebration, Schrock gave her friends Sherry Mitchell and Vicki Lawley handmade headwear boasting vibrant colors and Mexican themes.

“They’re supposed to make you laugh,” said Schrock, of the Village of Bonita. “They’re all different. I like making people happy.”

The three have been to the event celebrating Mexican culture on multiple occasions.

“It’s the music and it’s being with friends,” Mitchell said.

“It’s grown-ups dancing around like children,” added Lawley, of the Village of Bonita. Mitchell makes sure she’s in town for the Cinco de Mayo Celebration, presented by The Villages Entertainment, before heading back north for the summer.

“It’s my favorite event,” said Mitchell, of the Village of Hadley.

As part of the decor for the town square, the entertainment department gathered around 400 balloons that were on display throughout the square. Some decorations included a trio of balloons tied along railings, while other areas had balloons tied together to form the shape of a couple of large cacti. There also was a colorful archway where people snapped a quick photo underneath it.

On the music side of things, Stella Beat returned to the Gazebo to make sure Latin rhythms would get into the audience’s systems throughout the night. At different times during the event, several resident groups added to the festivities. The Spanish Folkloric Dance Group, an 11-member dance troupe led by Alicia Kath, moved to such styles as mariachi corridos, cumbia mexicana and the Mexican hat dance.

“It’s music that’s happy and fast,” Kath said.

The women got into the spirit by dressing in colorful costumes.

“The people love it,” Kath said. “They want their picture with us. It’s so much fun.”

The Spanish Folkloric Dance Group started rehearsing these dances back in March, usually on Sunday afternoons.

“It’s something different than the other groups,” said Kath, of the Village Mira Mesa. “We had a dress rehearsal last Sunday, and I was so proud of them and how beautiful they look.”

The Spanish Folkloric Dance Group, which has been around for at least 25 years, also makes an appearance throughout other festivals like the Heritage Festival in October, as well as for different clubs throughout the year.

Also scheduled to perform during the event were the Original Villages Belly Dancers, the Silver Rockettes and The Villages Cheerleaders.

Around 42 members of the cheerleaders came dressed wearing green shirts, red vests and white skirts, and they all had flowers pinned in their hair.

The ladies started working on the routines in March, as well. This was the group’s first appearance in the Cinco de Mayo Celebration since 2019.

“We love this one,” team captain Judy Matthews said. “It’s upbeat, good music. We’re ready to go.” Three members of the Cheerleaders — Judi Keim, Tracy Cairo and Tracey Carpenter — were making their debut on the square. “I’m not nervous,” said Cairo, of the Village of Pine Ridge. “I’m retired. This is fun.”

All three joined in March after making it through the tryouts, and they didn’t have as much time to get up to speed before this performance, but they rose to the challenge.

“I’m proud of them,” said Matthews, of the Village La Reynalda.

Carpenter first saw the Cheerleaders back in 2012.

“It’s been a dream of mine,” the Village of Linden resident said. “I’m a former cheerleader, and I said, ‘That’s my activity.’”

After Keim’s husband passed away, she was looking for a way to meet new people, and she tried out for the team.

“We bring smiles to people’s faces,” said Keim, of Crossroads at Brownwood. “When we performed at an assisted living facility, to see them light up was so special.” The Cinco de Mayo Celebration marks the end of the festival season for the entertainment department. The summer months will be used to get all the decorations ready for the fall festivals.

“(This season) went great,” said Chalsi Cox, special events manager for The Villages Entertainment. “Our attendance numbers are up. This was the largest number of vendors we’ve had for this event.”

Staff writer Michael Fortuna can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5273, or