WORTHINGTON - A celebration of Cinco de Mayo with music, food and art at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center is an event that appeals to all ages and all segments of the greater Worthington community.


At least that’s what the Friends of the Auditorium (FOTA) board members and Managing Director Tammy Makram are hoping.


“We’re trying to make the auditorium even more inclusive, and to expand some of the programming to involve even more parts of our community,” said Elizabeth Briones, a first-year FOTA board member.


“This is something that should be fun for everyone - and maybe some people who haven’t heard a live mariachi band before,” she continued.


“For sure, this will be a great family event for all.”


Makram has engaged a popular regional mariachi band, Mariachi Nuevo Guachinango, for the occasion.


The Sioux City, Iowa-based professional musical group, headed by Miguel Grima, has toured the area for more than 10 years to great acclaim.


“Miguel has been a musician since he started playing guitar at age 12,” said his wife, Sophia Grima.


“He and his band are in demand; they keep really busy playing at birthday parties, weddings, funerals, quinceaneras and special events at area restaurants.”


Although the eight-member band has performed in the past at Worthington restaurants, this will be their first featured theater concert at MAPAC.


“They’ve played with some of the best mariachi bands in the world,” endorsed Grima. “Four years ago, they opened and closed for the top international mariachi band in a show at the Winnebago Casino.”


Miguel Grima, who plays guitar and guitarron, is also joined in the group by his nephew, Jonathan, and his brother Francisco, both of whom are violinists. Trumpeters and additional instrumentalists round out their authentic sound.


While Mariachi Nuevo Guachinango’s full-length concert is certainly the highlight of the 6 p.m. show on Sunday, May 5, their presence isn’t the full extent of the fun.


Makram and the FOTA board have programmed the day’s activities to start at 5 p.m. with the Artmobile (staffed by artists/teachers Gail Holinka and Bobbie Alsgaard-Lien, among others) on site and Mexican food available for purchase from Lupita’s restaurant, perhaps to be paired with beverages served by Round Lake Winery.


“There will be flautas for sure,” said Briones, mentioning chicken, shredded beef and vegetable options.


Ironically, Briones says that Cinco de Mayo (which marks the anniversary of the 1862 Battle of Puebla at which the Mexican army improbably defeated Napoleon’s French forces), is not as notable a celebration in Mexico as many in the United States may believe.


Briones likened Cinco de Mayo to the equivalent of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland - a celebration adapted to American tastes and popularized by beer producers.


Still, “It’s an excuse to do something and offers a great opportunity for everyone,” said Briones.


She mentioned enjoying the “Movies at Memorial,” school music concerts and high school musicals that take place at MAPAC, but as a human resources administrator at JBS, Briones knows there are many more Worthington residents who could benefit from MAPAC’s resources and fine arts programming.


“There are a lot of people who don’t really know too much about the auditorium and what it does,” she said.


“In the past, they may not have realized it’s necessarily open to them as well, so we really want to invite everyone to be a part of this.


“And we [the FOTA board] are very interested in hearing people’s opinions and perspectives about what the community wants to see happen at the auditorium, because we hope to better serve the community by listening to what people have to say.”


A springtime party with food and upbeat music seemed just the ticket, agreed Makram.


“We have such a diverse population here, and we really wanted to reach out and celebrate that,” Makram said.


“This is something new for the auditorium that allows us to have fun together, enjoy some lively music and celebrate the return of spring after a tough winter.”


“Cinco de Mayo Celebration: Mariachi Nuevo Guachinango” takes place at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. Tickets may be purchased at the box office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, by calling 376-9101 or by visiting friendsoftheauditorium.com. Free admission for children 17 and under. Beginning at 5 p.m., the Artmobile will offer activities, Lupita’s Restaurant will have Mexican food available for purchase and Round Lake Winery will serve beverages.