Judy Leon and Amancia Solano dance with the Wenatchee High School band Mariachi Huenachi at University of Idaho’s Cesar Chavez Day in Moscow. The group will perform four shows at the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days and participate in the 10 a.m. Saturday parade on Main Street.
They’ve traveled to every corner of the state and even performed for the governor, but this week, Wenatchee High School’s mariachi band is coming to the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days.
Twenty-five musicians and six dancers with Mariachi Huenachi will march in Saturday’s downtown parade at 10 a.m. before performing four shows in the afternoon at the fairgrounds.
Mariachi Huenachi will perform at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds Saturday: 2 and 3 p.m. at the Pavilion, 5 p.m. in the flower garden area; and 6 p.m. by the fairgrounds main office.
Each show will last approximately 45 minutes.
Though they’ve performed in Walla Walla before, this will be the group’s first appearance at a big event like the fair.
Director Ramon Rivera has been with the Wenatchee group since 2005, and said he moved here from California because of the way Washington schools support the arts. Rivera grew up playing mariachi, a form of traditional Mexican folk music.
“What really draws me to the music is that it’s keeping the folk art music alive,” he said. “The music itself is very passionate music. It takes a lot of passion to play it.”
Mariachi Huenachi is part of a districtwide mariachi program that includes three high school classes and programs in three middle schools. All told, Rivera said about 250 students are involved, most of them Mexican-American or Latino.
“It really brings a lot of school pride, cultural pride and self-esteem,” he said. “Our students, they learn to become leaders in our class. They learn to become not just great musicians, but all-around students.”
Though still in high school, members of the ensemble get to perform three or four times a month, traveling so much that Rivera said they’re “ambassadors in music for the state of Washington.”
Recently, they performed at a Seahawks game in front of a crowd of 60,000 screaming fans, and they also got to play in the rotunda at the state capitol last year.
“This group is treated like a professional group as far as our reputation. It’s fantastic that these students have this opportunity,” said Rivera.
Though its roots are in Mexico, Rivera stressed that mariachi music can be played and enjoyed by everyone, and said he looked forward to sharing it with a diverse group in Walla Walla.
“All the generations can listen to this kind of music. It’s a way of bringing people together,” he said. “Out of all the mariachi bands in the state, the fair wanted us because they know we’re going to put on a good show and bring a lot of smiles to the community’s faces.”