With a little help from their friends, Sherri Morrison and Noreen Seegers threw quite a party on Saturday, May 5. Everyone was invited – no cover, no minimum, no charge. Both these gals are movers and shakers in the Goodland community and just happen to live next door to each other. For the past 2 years they have gotten together to produce this wildly popular end of season party for Goodland. “That’s right,” says Sherri, “Goodlanders love to fiesta… er party.”
Sherri and her husband, Jim Freeman, grew up in Amarillo, Texas, where as in most western states, the Mexican culture is cherished and celebrated. Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated there for years. “It’s a part of Texas,” Sherri says, “We missed that and wanted to share it with our friends after moving here.”
Actually, Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in the U.S. than in Mexico, particularly in the western states where Mexican-Americans have been part of the fabric of our country for years. In Mexico, it is celebrated for the most part only in one state, Puebla. It commemorates a battle there on May 5, 1862, in which a ragtag Mexican force defeated a larger invading French force during Napoleon III’s attempt to add Mexico to his empire. It is not even a federal holiday there. Mexican independence from Spain was deemed to commence in 1810, and is a national holiday, celebrated on September 16. It was left to those areas of the U.S. with substantial Mexican-American populations to elevate this event as a joyous celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. Cinco de Mayo is taking on an iconic status much like St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, which proudly commemorate the culture and heritage of an earlier group of immigrants who were not welcome here and were said to be taking U.S. jobs from Americans. Now Cinco de Mayo has come to Goodland.
Sherri and her husband, Jim Freeman, have Hispanic family members and friends. When they moved to Florida from Amarillo, some 18 years ago, they started having Cinco de Mayo themed parties with a few friends and fellow Texans. “We were always talking about the Mexican foods and the celebrations that we missed so the parties were born from that,” Sherri said, “We wanted to share our love of the Mexican culture by introducing the Mexican foods we loved, some of the traditions, the music, the dancing, and generally celebrating life and community with our family and friends.”
When Sherri and Jim moved to Goodland (from Isles of Capri), they kept the celebration going. It started to get bigger and bigger, and then last year, Noreen Seegers got involved. The event exploded from a few friends to a full-blown Goodland community event. Sherri gives Noreen most of the credit for this. “Everyone on Goodland loves Noreen,” Sherri said, “She knows how to pull the community together and she sure knows how to throw a great party.” I didn’t know about Noreen’s “great party” expertise, but was well aware of her devotion to Goodland and of all the things she has done for the community. She is by any measure, one of the best loved of our residents. I should add that the same is true about Sherri Morrison.
Much of the more exotic food, like carnitas and chicken for tacos and rajas con creama (roasted peppers and onions in Mexican creama), was cooked by Noreen. Other guests brought the more traditional dishes. Jim Freeman made a hit with his Mexican stew known as posole, made with pork and hominy. It was one of the most popular offerings, Sherri said.
The guests in their golf carts (people love their golf carts here) began arriving at 5:30, grabbing a (Mexican) beer or margarita, and then meeting, greeting, and mingling with old and newly made friends. Many of the men were wearing colorful Mexican sombreros and serapes. The women (all of our Goodland women are beautiful) were decked out in colorful Mexican themed dresses and blouses. After a few drinks the crowd hit the buffet and sat down to eat Mexican al fresco, next to one of Goodland’s famous canals.
Even the decorations originated from Mexican culture, Sherri says. She orders them from Texas, and has friends who send her things throughout the year. The papel picado are considered Mexican folk art and are hung to celebrate special occasions. The cascarones or confetti eggs are hollowed out and filled with confetti. They are broken over one’s head and are said to bring good luck. “My favorites are the brightly colored Mexican paper flowers,” Sherri said, “They are works of art and I love them!”
Once dinner was out of the way, the focus was on Noreen Seeger’s famous margaritas. I liken them to potato chips, which they say are impossible to stop eating after just one. Nothing is perfect, but her margaritas come close. Some of the young at heart attendees who agreed with this assessment, were still struggling to recover, two days later. The camaraderie which followed reminded me of a large family reunion at Thanksgiving, only with margaritas and Mexican music. It is hard to explain our closeness and love for one another down here. Those coming to our annual town picnic, pancake breakfasts, and monthly pot luck suppers know. But here, fortified by Mexican beverages, was a full blown love fest of Goodlanders enjoying Goodlanders.
The festivities were capped later in the evening by a piñata ceremony. Almost every Mexican fiesta has one. A piñata is made of papier-mâché with a clay pot inside, filled with toys, fruit, and candy. It is hung from above and moved around, while blindfolded children try to hit it with a stick and break it open.
Even though many Goodlanders had already left for the north, it seemed like everyone who was left showed up for the party. There were dozens. I wondered why they had come. Was it simply to have a good time or was it also to celebrate Mexican culture? I emailed queries to many of the people who were there. The answer was that by and large, they were there to have a good time. Only one had given any thought as to the origins of the Cinco de Mayo fiesta. Sherri Morrison sums it up best. “Maybe this is sort of a party with a dual purpose,” Sherri said, “It never hurts to try something from another culture or learn something. It opens hearts and minds.”
So, “The party is probably two fold,” says Sherri, “Introduce something new and bring the community together. One thing Goodlanders love to do is get together and fiesta (party).”
I kind of feel sorry for all you other people.
Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.