May 26th, 2022
Long Branch’s Cinco de Mayo, 2022: ‘Crazy,’ But in a Good Way
The Cinco de Mayo celebration in Long Branch this year – which took place on May 5, 2022, to be precise — featured several firsts, among them Discover Long Branch-branded Margarita mugs for sale, and free salsa dance lessons in the park.
Local restaurants lined up top tier music bands for the occasion. La Colombo Percutiva played at El Gavilan; Los Day Trippers at El Golfo. The bands played outdoors next to the respective patios of the two restaurants. Patrons who couldn’t get a seat stood around to listen while sipping their drink of choice from their newly-purchased Discover Long Branch mug.
In the midst of all the crowds and at the peak of demand for food and drink, a Newsletter reporter stopped by to ask El Gavilan owner, Ana Rivera, how things were going.
Still mixing drinks as she replied, Rivera looked up, a big grin on her face, and replied, “It’s been crazy!”
Crazy in a good way, clearly.
A Brief History
Cinco de Mayo celebrations have a history here in Long Branch, though not a long one. As a community-scale event, they started in 2016.
It was in the year 2016 that the Long Branch Business League and the non-profit MHP first decided to hold an outdoor Cinco de Mayo event in the large parking lot between El Golfo and El Gavilan restaurants. Tents and tables were set up. A make-shift public square was roped off. There was live music and the restaurants brought out drinks and hot food.
In part, perhaps, because of the newness of it all, attendance was modest. The weather didn’t help. For a May 5, it was freezing. Temperatures were in the low 50s and there was an occasional drizzle.
Subsequent Cinco de Mayos kept closer to the restaurants and focused attention on sidewalk spaces. In 2018 – or was it 2019? — Montgomery Parks stepped in to provide beautiful tents and tables with chairs. There was a lively Mariachi band one year.
In the years 2020 and 2021, for obvious reasons, there was no dancing, nor pop-up outdoor squares. The emphasis at the restaurants was on take-out orders, and, thanks to the loyalty of local residents and the marketing efforts of MHP and the LBBL, many Long Branch restaurants did a brisk business.
What is more, thanks to Montgomery County government’s loosening the rules about take-outs of mixed drinks – a measure taken to help restaurants survive the pandemic – Margaritas were also sold to go. Sales were pretty good.
Then came 2022.
“Cinco de Mayo used to be just another day at work for us at El Golfo,” Ada Villatoro, owner of El Golfo, told the Newsletter. “But this year we broke records in sales.”
Villatoro credits the positive trend to the steady work done by the Long Branch Business League (LBBL) and MHP, whose efforts, she said, have built up the Cinco de Mayo ‘brand’ in the Long Branch community over time.
Restaurants, to be sure, weren’t the sole focus of Long Branch’s May 5 festival. In fact, it was in the Long Branch Urban Park (which the Parks Department graciously made available for the event) that this year’s event got started.
Early in the evening, MHP staff set up under a tent in the park, and at 6 p.m. began selling to the waiting public drinking glasses and mugs engraved with the words ‘Discover Long Branch.’ The mugs could then be brought to local restaurants, who offered, for the occasion, discounts on drinks. Mug-purchasers, after getting their discount drinks, often stayed for dinner.
Proceeds from the mug sales went to the LBBL which, in turn, will use those funds in support of future community events. Takoma Torch, the local satirical newspaper, partnered with Discover Long Branch on promoting the Margarita Crawl.
Villatoro described the mugs-for-discounts idea as a stroke of genius. “At one point we had a line of [El Golfo] patrons waving those beautiful green mugs at the bar waiting to get that half price margarita!”
Meanwhile, in the park, the group DC Casineros was teaching Salsa and Bachata and other fancy dance moves to squads of eager children and adults. At one point, a lone journalist was noticed making efforts to join the dance, though to paltry artistic effect.