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Mission Fiesta Draws Thousands

  • By Shel Segal
SGMissionASAN GABRIEL - The historic San Gabriel Mission held its annual Labor Day weekend fiesta this past weekend to packed crowds of smiling children and happy adults alike.

As the mission was founded in 1771, Algis Marciuska, public affairs coordinator for the fiesta, said there was a lot for everyone to do as an estimated 25,000 people came through the turnstiles.

"We have an art show, we're re-enacting mission history," Marciuska said. "(Sunday morning) Archbishop Jose Gomez, the new archbishop of Los Angeles, was here for mass. We about 1,500 people here. We had an overflowing crowd."

And what else did the fiesta have?

"We had all of our food booths going," Marciuska said. "We had Vietnamese, Mexican, El Salvadorean and lots of American food. We had kiddy rides and on the north end we had big rides."

Anything else?

"We had live entertainment that started (in the evenings)," he said. "We had mariachias, folklorios. We had a bingo bonanza and we had a $10,000 grand prize drawing."

The fiesta started Friday and went through to Sunday, Marciuska said.

"Friday was our opening," he said. "We had our opening ceremony and rang the mission bells. Our pastor blessed all of the groups and all of the booths of the fiesta. We had a children's and pets' costume contest. We had the blessing of the animals. There were more than 100 animals blessed. The smallest was a hamster and the biggest was a St. Bernard. In the past, we've had a mule as the biggest animal."

The fiesta was free to attend and parking was free, Marciuska said, adding you just had to pay for the food and rides. You could also make a donation, which benefitted the parish.

In addition, Marciuska said there were 650 volunteers and the fiesta took nine months to plan.

"It takes about a week to set up and one day to tear day," he said.

San Gabriel resident Chris Collins was having a good time at the fiesta with his child.

"It's fun," Collins said. "My 5-year-old son's having a good time."

Longtime Alhambra resident Anna Leiva has been volunteering at the fiesta for the past three decades and helps sell "pupusas," a favorite El Salvadorian food. She said she loves coming to the event.

"It's wonderful," she said. "It's a family event once a year. This is the only time I have to be close with my grandchildren."

(Shel Segal can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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