BILLINGS — Members of the Billings community were happy to be back at the 67th South Park Fiesta and Car Show on Saturday after event organizers canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(Since) I was a kid, it’s always been the same. It’s something that I look to every year. As long as this goes on, I’ll always be here," said Larry Garcia, 73.
Garcia grew up on the South Side of Billings and spent 60 years in the city. He now lives in Laurel but comes back every year for the fiesta.
"We get older, we still want to attend, because we want to eat the food. And there's games for the kids and there's always that great music. That's what it's all about," Garcia said.
Mary Chavez was another longtime fiesta attendee. She moved to Billings around 1949 and has been in the city ever since. Her family is friends with the Garcia family, with Mary and Larry attending school together for a number of years.
“I’ve seen (the fiesta) grow and grow and grow. I remember when we used to have it over there by the apartments. Then it moved behind the church and round there. Then we moved down (to South Park). It has grown and I don’t know about anybody else, but I think this is the biggest one today," Chavez said.
Chavez said she likes the family-friendly event because it serves as a fundraiser for the Mary Queen of Peace Church on Billings South Side.
"You enjoy to see that the money you put in it or whatever you do with donations and all of that goes right back into the community and it's all for a good reason," Chavez said.
The fiesta is also a time to make new friends and for old friends to get reacquainted, Chavez said.
“Everybody is so friendly. We all help each other. It’s nice. When we get together everybody knows everybody and everybody talks to everybody. So you meet new friends and you expect to see them next year," Chavez said.
Other than food, family, music and fun, the fiesta is also known for its Mexican dance performances by Los Guadalupanos. The dance group was started by the Contrarez family, the same that organizes the yearly fiesta.
Isabel Aguirre, 19, has been dancing in the family troop for about 15 years. She said it was good to get back to the celebration this year after a year off in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“It was really different for us not to have our fiesta and not be able to dance, but getting back into our costumes and getting to celebrate and share that with everyone, it was really awesome," Aguirre said.
Aguirre said the fiesta is unlike any other she's seen in the state.
“Billings and especially in Montana, I don't think there's anything like it. This is very authentic and it is very welcoming to the entire community. People anywhere in Montana are so welcome to join us. We love sharing our food, we love sharing our dances of course and our music, especially. It is so great for everyone to come to one place to share that together. It's fantastic," Aguirre said.