A somewhat non-traditional family tradition that formed behind the scenes of Topeka’s Fiesta Mexicana reached a milestone this week.
Debbie Escobar says her family on Tuesday celebrated their 30th year of coming together to take on the arduous task of prepping, cooking and serving food for the fiesta’s opening day.
The tradition started, coincidentally, the same year Debbie married into the Escobar clan.
“There was another family that handled opening day before us and they had to give it up. They asked if we would take it over and we just kept doing it,” said Escobar. “Nobody even have to ask about doing [opening day] anymore. They know it’s always going to be the Escobars.”
When the torch was first passed to the family, Debbie’s sister-in-law, Mary Lou Escobar, took on the role of team captain. As the years passed, Debbie climbed the ranks and now serves alongside Mary Lou as co-captain of what she calls a “well-oiled machine.”
Today, four generations of men, women, boys and girls with roots connected to the Escobar family tree take part in the culinary marathon.
The typical crew is comprised more than 50 people who make their way in and out of the in the kitchen inside the Our Lady of Guadalupe MCB Activity Center throughout the day.
“It’s a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and a lot of hard work,” said Escobar. “But everybody pitches in and it doesn’t make it seem like work at all.”
The cooking starts around 6 a.m. and, by the time all is said and done, the crew serves roughly 2,000 burritos and enchilada and more tacos than anyone has ever attempted to count. The hours may be long and the kitchen is hot, but for Escobar, knowing she played such an important part in the annual fundraiser for Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the Holy Family School is well worth the effort.
“It’s our way of giving back to the community,” said Escobar. “Some of us aren’t even parishioners of Guadalupe anymore, but we still come back. This is our home parish and it’s our way of the school and the church.”
While some members of the family leave the kitchen after countless hours of cooking for a little fiesta fun of their own, Debbie says she considers the family reunion her own personal Fiesta Mexicana.
“I don’t crowds and I don’t do heat,” said Escobar. “So this is this is my day and I love it.”
The Fiesta Mexicana, which takes place over several blocks in the northeast Topeka Oakland community, runs through Saturday night.
A torrential rain storm forced the cancellation of the Fiesta’s Thursday night activities. The show, as they say, must go on and organizers have made changes to Friday’s entertainment schedule in order to give the cancelled acts a chance to perform.
The updates Street Stage line-up is as follows:
- 6:00-7:00 – Cruz Drum Line
- 7:00-7:30 – Jackie Pegan
- 7:30-8:30 – Fiesta Band
- 8:30-9:15 – Las Estrellas
- 9:15-10:15 – Chente Barrera
- 10:30-12:00 – Grupo Control
The line-up on the School Stage remains the same.