ELKO — Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a patriotic twist.

Hispanic and American cultures will combine this weekend in celebration of the 13th annual Cinco de Mayo festival, appropriately entitled “God Bless the USA.”

The POW/MIA Elko Awareness Association has been named grand marshal of the parade, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, and is the second year a focus of the parade has been on patriotism.

“We’re honored to be asked to be a part of it,” said POW/MIA Commanding Officer Les Brown. “A lot of people don’t know that Hispanics throughout our history have served this country and protected it. I think that’s important for people to know.”

According to Brown’s research, over the course of history more than 70,000 Hispanics have served the U.S. in various branches of the military. Of these, about 20 have received the Medal of Honor, the highest award one can receive in the U.S.

Pedro Marin, event coordinator, also believes the theme is fitting because of the freedom afforded to “celebrate different cultures and the Cinco de Mayo culture” in America.

The Cinco de Mayo festivities begin 4 p.m. Friday with a carnival at the Elko County Fairgrounds.

The 11 a.m. Saturday parade kicks off a series of day-long festivities The POW/MIA Association will lead the parade through downtown Elko, and members of the group will conduct a flag presentation and lead the crowd in the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem.

So far, there are about 17 parade entries and there is still time for individuals and groups to sign up. Last-minute entries need to meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Crystal 5 movie theater on Commercial Street, Marin said. There is no entry fee.

Following the parade, the celebration will continue at Main City Park, which last reported more than 600 attendees, Marin said.

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Those who attend will have the opportunity to purchase traditional and authentic Mexican food and watch a variety of demonstrations.

There will be live music at the park, dancing horses and Mexican dancers, including performances by the Elko Mexican Folkloric Ballet.

All are welcome to attend the events at the park, which are free of charge.

There is also a Cinco de Mayo dance beginning at 9 p.m. the same day at the El Aero building on Mountain City Highway. The cost for the dance is $20 per person and features two bands and a disc jockey.

Proceeds from the dance will benefit the Hispanic Club of Northeastern Nevada. Marin said the funds will be used to build a dance hall and also help establish a scholarship for high school students.

For information on the events or to participate in the parade, call Marin at 934-7435.

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