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Boxers and queens, candidates and spectators powered their way through a cold, gray Saturday, making few concessions to nature during the annual Cinco de Mayo parade in South Omaha.
Goose bumps rose on the arms of the Cinco de Mayo queen contenders, who rode in and on a Ford Mustang convertible in the 38-degree cold. They wore sleeveless, backless dresses. A couple pulled on coats. Their teeth chattered in the chilly air, but they gutted it out to the end.
“Our toes, our hands,” queen candidate Elizabeth Contreras said. There was no doubt that she was referring to some of the body parts that were freezing.
Jennifer Villanueva, the state's Miss El Salvador Independence, wore a coat and a miniskirt. She took off her tiara and headed straight indoors when she finished the parade. She conceded that when she awakened to a rainy Omaha morning, she didn't have soaring expectations for the parade.
“I was, like, 'I hope it gets canceled,' '' Villanueva said.
It could have been much worse. The rain stopped about a half-hour before the parade along 24th Street began. A mist resumed about a half-hour after it ended.
Longtime South Omaha resident Alejandra Flores' umbrella was rolled up and under her arm.
“I thought I was gonna need it,” Flores, 66, said. She said it felt like November.
“I usually bring the grandkids, but my grandkids are too chicken,” she said. “They didn't want to come out in the cold.”
Dozens of parade entries forged ahead as though it were a summer day in Acapulco. Crowds didn't match those of many other Cinco de Mayo parades, but when the parade swept around M Street and came to its end, people stood four and five deep.
Soccer players, Realtors, Hibernians, tax preparers, insurance agents and band members strode along.
So did riders on horseback and representatives of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands and Boys & Girls Clubs of Omaha, and beauty salons, churches, restaurants, a painting company, a towing service, a day care and a nightclub.
And Consolidated Concrete, OneWorld Community Health Centers, the Omaha Public Library and the Alzheimer's Association.
Boxer Arturo Camacho, 17, of the Viking Ship Boxing Club fired punches at the rubber targets on another man's hands. The young boxer wore a sleeveless T-shirt and denied being cold. “I'm good,” he said.
Sahira Moreno, a young woman in a short-sleeve, brightly colored long dress, danced with Banda Brisa, a group of horn players, drummers and dancers. “It's OK. Once we're dancing, it will be good, I think,” Moreno said. “I hope.”
Politicians also walked along, smiling. “We've got six things today, four things tonight,” said Mayor Jim Suttle, who's in a battle to retain his job.
His opponent, Jean Stothert, followed. She wore the kind of gloves that allow bare fingertips to emerge for better dexterity, which she needed to distribute candy from a bucket.
“My hands are always freezing, but look at this today,” she said of her chilly, pink fingers.
Hector Salgado, one of several parade grand marshals, led a group of taekwondo kids in chants. “We come to win. Why? To be the champions,” they yelled in Spanish.
“It's an honor to be part of this great community, seeing Latinos grow in a positive way,” said Salgado, master of the Hispanic Association of Taekwondo.
Castelar Elementary Principal Adriana Vargas was at the parade with 20 of her students. “Viva Castelar!” they yelled. “Castelar!”
“I've been doing this for so many years that I knew there's nothing that stops this festivity,” Vargas said. Certainly not a little cold.
Rilea Barber, 9, walked with her mother, Tiffany Bolter, who represented Metropolitan Community College in the parade. Bolter will receive a liberal arts degree Friday. Bolter's little girl dragged a sleeve across her nose as they reached the end.
“I thought it was gonna be a bad parade,” Rilea said.
But now that it was over, she said, she knew she was wrong.
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