Photo by Karin O'Brien

La Unión Cívica is proud to present the 31st annual Cinco de Mayo Parade and Festival on Saturday, May 8, in Saginaw. With the theme Unidos Ganamos/United We Win, the parade is expecting over 100 entrants, making it the largest Hispanic parade in Michigan and attracting attendees and participants from all over.

In addition to restaurants, civic organizations, Latino youth groups,  marching bands and low-rider vehicles, attendees can expect to see a number of familiar faces along the route, including Dora the Explorer; Sammy from the Saginaw Spirit hockey team; and PAWS, mascot of the Detroit Tigers. This year's Grand Marshal of the parade is Jaunita Jaime Chantaca, who will be representing all of the past La Unión Cívica Queens from 1945-2000. Crowned queen in 1947 at the age of 16, she is the oldest living Cívica Queen. This year La Unión Cívica is celebrating its 65th anniversary since it became a non-profit organization in March of 1945. After a few years of dropping membership, the organization has experienced a recent boost in visibility brought on by new leadership.

The parade begins at 11 a.m. at the parking lot at the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy (1903 N. Niagara St.). The parade route heads west on Genesee, then continues south on N. Michigan Ave. to Court St., crossing the Court Street Bridge and ending at Ojibway Island.

The festival at Ojibway Island will last from 12:30 to 6 p.m. and will feature music, dance and food. Over twenty different vendors will be offering Mexican food, and entertainment will be provided by Los Carnales of Saginaw, Sensación of Pontiac, and Unidad de Michoacán of Columbus, Ohio. Headlining the festival are two Tejano bands from Texas, Ricardo Castillón y La Diferenzia and Grupo Fama. The Ballet Folklórico Xochiquetzal will also perform.

Also, for the first time ever, the celebration will feature a "Cinco-K" run/walk. There will also be entertainment for the kids. In addition to the playground equipment on the island, there will also be an inflatable playland.

To close out the evening, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., there is a Cinco de Mayo Extravaganza Dance at the Dow Event Center. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Performing that night will be Ricardo Castillon y La Diferenzia and Grupo Fama as well as the new Saginaw group QuVo. Tickets are available at El Rancho Grande Restaurant (2403 N. Michigan Ave).