West Chicago officials have scrapped plans for the city's annual celebration of Mexican Independence Day, citing a lack of vendors and an insufficient number of volunteers for the daylong event.
In a city where slightly more than half the residents are Hispanic, organizers said they anticipated a boost in volunteers after the city council unanimously appointed Ruben Pineda acting mayor in May -- making him the first mayor of Hispanic descent in West Chicago history. Former Mayor Mike Kwasman died April 17 a few days after suffering a heart attack.
"I thought that with him being our new mayor the community would be more involved," said Valeria Lopez, West Chicago's executive office manager, deputy city clerk and the city's liaison on the volunteer-based event committee.
The city took over a resident-led celebration in 2008, but canceled its first attempt due to flooding. The city dropped the celebration again in 2011 because of heavy rains.
"Many food vendors had already set up, and then we had to cancel at the last minute," Lopez said of last year's event. "We believe that's one of the reasons why many did not wish to participate this year."
Despite the relative lack of vendor and volunteer interest, the city hopes to start planning for next year's event in January and make it a rain-or-shine celebration to address vendors' concerns about last-minute cancellations.
Previous celebrations have drawn more than 3,000 people and featured an array of activities, including a parade with more than 20 entries along Main Street, a youth soccer camp, live music, a Mexican history exhibit and El Grito, a traditional bell-ringing ceremony that marks the cry for independence by revolutionary Miguel Hidalgo. Lopez said the celebration has had a $6,000 budget.
The city's latest newsletter, mailed to residents in July, posted a notice cautioning the event, originally scheduled for Sept. 16, was in jeopardy due to a "lack of volunteers."
To attract volunteers and vendors, Lopez said her committee combs neighborhoods and downtown businesses, encouraging locals to join in.
"It was very surprising to find out the community was not able to help out at this event," Lopez said. "We tried to get West Chicagoans to know about this heritage, especially the children. Hopefully next year, we will have a successful event where we will have volunteers and vendors who participate."
Anyone interested in volunteering for the 2013 celebration can call (630) 293-2200, ext. 170.
Meanwhile, in Aurora, the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is preparing for Fiestas Patrias, a three-day celebration of Mexican independence set for Sept. 14-16.
The fiesta has expanded from a two-day to three-day event, highlighting local businesses and including a parade and musical performances, said Jerry Campagna, the chamber's interim executive director.
"Based on what's happened here in West Chicago, we'll probably reach out to them or those groups and talk about certainly inviting them to come to Aurora so we can all still celebrate," he said.