By Valerie Baldowski
A celebration of Mexican culture was held at various restaurants in Henry County Wednesday, as the community celebrated Cinco de Mayo.
One of the larger celebrations was found at La Parrilla Mexican Restaurant, on Jonesboro Road, in McDonough. Jairo Candamil, managing partner of the restaurant, said the turnout was strong. The activities began at 11 a.m., he said, and patrons were expected to continue coming in until midnight.
"It's very good now, and we expect to be absolutely packed in 30 minutes or so," said Candamil, on Wednesday afternoon. "The big party starts at 5 p.m."
The Cinco de Mayo tradition began in the 1800s when Mexican and French troops clashed in Puebla, Mexico, he said. Cinco de Mayo -- Spanish for "fifth of May," -- is observed on May 5 to commemorate the Mexican victory over the French soldiers in 1862.
"The story behind Cinco de Mayo was, it was an important battle in Mexico against the French army," said Candamil. "The French one used to be the best army, so that's why Mexicans celebrate this important day."
Large crowds packed into the restaurant by dinner time, squeezing into booths and sitting at tables to order traditional Mexican food and drink. More were seated at tables under umbrellas outside in the warm sunshine, enjoying their food, socializing, and listening to music provided by a deejay.
One of the patrons inside was Jennifer Lawrence, of Stockbridge. She was seated at a booth with her husband and three children. Together, the family was preparing to dive into their meal, delivered to them steaming hot.
Lawrence said the family chose to visit the restaurant to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, as they do every year. "We usually make it a family tradition, so we brought the kids out, and decided to come on out and join the fun," she said. "This is close to home, so this is where we come now," she added. "It's fun, everybody's laughing, and everybody's in a good mood."
Two other patrons, soaking up the warm sun outside, were father and daughter, Tim Harris and Nicole Harris, of McDonough. Tim Harris said he and his daughter chose to frequent La Parrilla to have supper and take part in the celebration, because of the "party atmosphere."
Harris said he and his daughter frequently eat at the restaurant, but this was their first Cinco de Mayo celebration there.