Cinco de Mayo festival on Seis and Siete de Mayo in downtown Denver

You've counted down the days. May 1, May 2, May 3... Now it's here. Cinco de Mayo -- the biggest one-day holiday that spans dos días of food, drinks and fun in downtown Denver. On the big day on Saturday, the Cinco de Mayo Parade returns for its 19th annual walk-through -- after a two-year hiatus that began in 2008 when a major media sponsor pulled its funding and volunteer force.

Though the Cinco de Mayo Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, is enough reason to make your way downtown in the next few days, there is even more to look forward to. The Cinco in the Park celebration immediately follows the parade and will continuing on Sunday as well, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Civic Center Park. The parade route starts at 12th Street and Colfax, then moves south along 15th Street and ends south on Lincoln Avenue.

You've got a lot to be excited about, amigos, and Andrea Barela, the development director of the company, NEWSED Community Development Corporation, which has co-produced the Cinco in the Park and parade events with Santa Fe Drive Redevelopment Corporation, explains why. After Barela gave Westword an exclusive breakdown of what to look forward to, we've put together a list of the top 10 new and exciting things you most certainly should check out tomorrow and this weekend. So what else is worth your time and what is not? Read on, amigos, and find out.

10. Ridin' dirty With 30 low-rider vehicles in the parade on Saturday, you can expect to see a lot of awesome classic cars, as well as a lot of hand-waving action. Prince William and Kate Middleton ain't got nothin' on the peeps in these cars. Different bike clubs and dance groups, including traditional Mexican folk dancers and different drill teams, will also be around to strut their stuff.

9. Meet your mayoral candidates, and your cops, and your firemen, and your buses In addition to the different low-riders in the Parade, Andrea Barela says that one mayoral candidate and one former front-runner are confirmed to make an appearance Saturday: Chris Romer and James Mejia. Denver police and firemen will also be on hand to woo the crowd. And if that weren't enough, RTD will be parading one of their buses. Can you say "eye candy"?

8. La música Radio Station Que Bueno, KBNO 1280 AM, is the official entertainment sponsor of Cinco in the Park. Translation: lots and lots of Mexican music. If you ever want to experience what's unique about the sound of Mexican music, come to any of the performances on Saturday and Sunday, says Andrea Barela. There are thirty groups performing on two stages, with a third stage devoted to various dance organizations. ¡Bailamos!

7. Play station Has your carpal tunnel died down lately? Revive it at this expansive, 90-foot interactive trailer site that offers Playstation video game demonstrations. It's fun gaming action for all ages -- whether it's with your madre, your padre, you abuela or your amor. And, like all other sites and events during the Cinco in the Park festival this weekend, it's free.

6. Sensodynero In between all of the delicious Mexican and American foods you will be eating this weekend, stop by the Sensodyne dental health spa station to have your teeth checked out by a professional hygienist free of charge. While you're there, try samples of new Sensodyne products. Think of it like you're going to a dentist's office, but the dentist's office is surrounded by music and food and people standing around you as spectators. 5. Cinco de Drinko Get your drink on at one of three different margarita gardens. Or cheers your amigos at one of six Tecate, Tecate Light and Dos Equis beer booths. Barela says that if you are able to arrive early enough at one of the Tecate booths, you can get your hands on a commemorative 24-ounce can of beer featuring the boxers Manny Pacquiao and "Sugar" Shane Mosley, who are scheduled to duke it out against each other on Saturday, May 7.

4. Green Chili Bowl cook-off People may go for the parade or the festival, but they'll stay for Saturday's Green Chili Bowl Cook-off, which will feature entries from ten Denver restaurants. Barela chose not to release the names of the restaurants because she wanted them to remain a surprise, but she confirmed that last year's reigning champion, Raul Portencia of La Noria Carniceria Taqueria, will return this year. The cook-off starts at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

3. In the navy The U.S. Navy boasts easily the most fun interactive booth to date at the Cinco in the Park festival: an F-18 flight simulator. Think Dave & Buster's, but even more awesome. Need we say more? We will: It's free.

2. Leap frog, leap frog The U.S. Navy is playing a big role in the Cinco de Mayo festivities this year. In addition to the flight simulator and one of the Navy's admirals serving as grand marshal of tomorrow's parade, there is a Navy parachute team, the Leap Frogs, that will literally drop into the event from the sky two times on Saturday -- at 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. This is the first time the Leap Frogs will be participating in any of Denver's Cinco de Mayo festivities.

1. Yo quiero Taco Bell If you never tire of seeing Chihuahuas dressed as humans, then look no further, amigo. Tomorrow, clothed Chihuahuas will walk in the parade, and Sunday they will race one another at a booth off of Bannock Street.

With over 250 exhibitions tomorrow and this weekend, how will you celebrate your Cinco de Mayo? Maybe by winning a Dodge Ram 1500 truck, that's how. Be sure to register to win the drawing at the Dodge booth, also off Bannock Street.

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