After years of seeing a sparse turnout, Miss Cinco de Mayo organizers in Sunnyside are gleaming with pride because of the number of young ladies competing for this year's crown.
More than a dozen young women from Granger to Prosser will take to the stage at Sunnyside High School Friday, April 23, for the right to wear the Miss Cinco de Mayo crown.
The pageant will begin at 7 p.m. This year's Miss Cinco de Mayo, Amy Rubio, and her princess, Corina Cortez, will be relinquishing their crowns at the April 23 pageant.
"We are excited about the pageant this year," said Miss Cinco de Mayo Program Coordinator Carlos Maya. "The pageant has grown so much."
The last two years the Miss Cinco de Mayo program has seen sparse participation, with five girls competing for the crown each year.
"We are excited to have the largest crowd (of girls) come out yet," said Maya.
The 13 young ladies competing for the Miss Cinco de Mayo crown this year are Gloria Rangel, Rachel Alvarez, Brenda Ortiz, Maribel Sanchez, Yesenia Jalifi, Rosie Moran, Iris Ruiz, Maria Macias, Anabel Diaz, Janet Gonzalez, Elizabeth Cervantes, Maria Casillas and Kathya Quijano.
Rangel is a 17-year-old Sunnyside resident. She will be performing a singing routine in the talent portion of the program.
Alvarez is a 17-year-old student at Sunnyside High School, where she is involved with the Grizzliettes drill team.
Ortiz, 18, is also from Sunnyside and she plans on performing a dance routine as her talent at the pageant.
Sanchez, 16, is a student at Sunnyside High School. She will be performing a dance number as her talent routine.
Jalifi, 16, will also be performing a dance routine at the pageant.
Moran, 17, is a member of the Grizzliettes dance team at Sunnyside High School, where she also serves as the senior class and dance team treasurer.
Ruiz is a 17-year-old Outlook resident. One of the club's the Sunnyside High School student is involved in is Honor Society. She is also active in the Sunnyside Police Explorers.
Macias, 18, is also from Outlook. She plans to perform a dance routine as part of her performance in the April 23 pageant.
Diaz, 15, is from Mabton. Diaz is heavily involved with church activities and loves to play the piano.
Gonzalez, 17, will be representing Grandview. At Grandview High School she is involved with the dance/drill team. She will be performing a dance routine during the April 23 pageant.
Cervantes is one of two young ladies from Granger signed up to participate. Cervantes, 17, is involved with cheerleading at her school. After high school she plans to attend college to study fashion designing.
Casillas is an 18-year-old student at Granger High School. After high school Casillas is interested in going to college to study interior design.
Maya said he is excited about the coming pageant. He said many of the young ladies competing can relate to the rich heritage associated with the Cinco de Mayo holiday.
Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, marks an important date in the Mexican and Mexican American communities. The day marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. The victory holds significance because it stands as a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism.
Several of the young ladies competing have their own reasons for entering the Miss Cinco de Mayo pageant.
"I've always wanted to ride on a float," smiled Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said she usually doesn't participate in many activities such as this and she thought it would help her meet new people and experience different things.
"Running for Miss Cinco de Mayo is like a dream come true for me," said Diaz. "It is a great opportunity."
Diaz said she has always looked up to such people as past Miss Cinco de Mayo royalty and wanted an opportunity to represent her community in the same role.
"I am very excited," said Cervantes.
Cervantes said she felt like running for Miss Cinco de Mayo would give her an opportunity to represent her culture.
Casillas shared many of the same reasons for running for Miss Cinco de Mayo. Casillas said she feels it is an opportunity to represent her culture in a positive light.
The outgoing Miss Cinco de Mayo, Rubio, said the last year has been a great experience for her and that she may want to participate in other pageants now.
Her princess, Corina Cortez, has also enjoyed the last year.
Both of the current Miss Cinco de Mayo court members said they feel the program has grown a lot in the past year. Rubio said the court is now viewed on a level field as the other courts throughout the Valley.
The past year has kept both Rubio and Cortez busy. They have completed various community service projects, such as staging a rally to support United States troops in Iraq, as well as putting together holiday care packages.
Rubio said she will miss being Miss Cinco de Mayo, but said she is looking forward to turning over her crown.
"I like helping the community," said Rubio. "But I want someone else to feel the same experiences."
The new Miss Cinco de Mayo will receive a $500 scholarship and her royalty will receive $250 scholarships. Maya said there will also be opportunities to pursue other scholarships.
During the next few weeks, each of the participants will be selling raffle tickets and gathering business sponsors to help pay for the expenses of the pageant and the Miss Cinco de Mayo float.
At the pageant, each participant will be judged in the area of individual talent, evening gown wear and grade point average. Judges will also look for the responses of contestants during a spontaneous question period.
"Our pageants have been very exciting in the past," said Maya. "Everything is really upbeat. We invite everybody to come out."