Some of the largest celebrations of Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “Fifth of May”) this side of the border take place right here in our region, and the Sunnyside community celebrates it in authentic Mexican fashion.

In the Yakima Valley town of Sunnyside, people of all backgrounds and nationalities gather for this three-day celebration of Hispanic culture. This year’s event on the weekend of May 6, 7, and 8 is the town’s 34th annual celebration.

A common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually celebrated on Sept. 16. But Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican Army’s unlikely defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It was the first such defeat for France in 50 years. Although it’s a minor holiday in most of Mexico, it is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and Mexican immigrants’ contributions to our culture. It is marked by festivals of Mexican food, music and dancing.

Sunnyside’s Cinco de Mayo activities begin on Friday, May 6, and continue on Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and 8. The event is heralded as Washington’s largest such celebration, drawing a large crowd of locals and visitors from all over the state. The attractions include live entertainment, more than 100 street vendors, traditional music, a carnival and incredibly good Mexican food.

On Sunday, May 8, you can watch the Grand Parade with its floats, colorful costumes, performing groups and charros, the traditional Mexican horsemen with their “dancing” horses. The parade starts at noon on Edison Ave. at Sunnyside High School. An entry form is available online at cometothesun.com (entries after April 15 will not be eligible for judging).

For more information about the Sunnyside Cinco de Mayo and other Sunnyside events visit Sunnyside’s community website, “>cometothesun.com.