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Happy, hot customers at Fiestas Patrias

Ignacio Cervantes owner 'Tacos Junior' Aurorpreps al pastor tacos for Fiestas Patrias Saturday September 15 2012  AurorIL.  |

Ignacio Cervantes owner of "Tacos Junior" in Aurora, preps al pastor tacos for Fiestas Patrias on Saturday, September 15, 2012 in Aurora IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media

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Where: North River Street Park, New York and River streets in downtown Aurora

Admission: Free entry, $2 per day wristband to purchase alcohol

Hours: Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

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Updated: October 17, 2012 6:23AM

There are people who stop by La Chicanita every morning before work and every night after work to pick up a cup of hot chocolate. That’s an impressive testament to the Aurora bakery’s drink, although the same could be said of millions of cups of coffee.

So to give the drink some context, consider it was 83 degrees Saturday afternoon at Fiestas Patrias — maybe a little warmer on the pavement where the festival was laid out. The sun was beating down, and groups of people were huddling under any bit of shade they could find.

But La Chicanita was selling dozens of cups of hot chocolate. Their hot chocolate had a different texture than similar drinks found in most places in the United States. It was bit smoother, a bit spicier. Of course, flavor wasn’t the only reason people were grabbing cups Saturday: it held memories, too.

“They recognize it from their home town,” said La Chicanita manager Laura Parra.

The festival to celebrate Mexican Independence was filled with many more flavors of Hispanic heritage. The food rows were filled with pork, chicharrón en bolsa, nachos, churros. A 10-member mariachi band played traditional Mexican music in traditional mariachi jackets, long pants and hats.

“It is hot. Really hot,” 18-year-old Lazaro Camargo said as he wiped sweat off his forehead after an hour-long performance.

Camargo was born in Mexico and has been playing the vihuela with Mariachi Monterrey for three years. They play at a downtown Aurora restaurant on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights But Fiestas Patrias was a chance to put a show on for a bigger crowd.

“The people out there cheering for you — it’s great,” he said.

Besides the food and song, the festival also includes the more typical carnival rides and plenty of vendors selling everything from inflatable toys to tax advice.

The festival wraps up today with a salute to Latino veterans. The day will start with a parade at 10:30 a.m. featuring a variety of community groups and organizations in the downtown area. One of the grand marshals of the parade is retiring Federal Judge Manuel Barbosa, who completes a 14-year term on the bench in Rockford this year.

People who attend Sunday can expect a full lineup of musical acts in the styles of banda, mariachi, cumbia, tejano, norteno and rock. Headliners include Mariachi Monterrey and Groupo Ladron.

Fiestas Patrias Aurora was expected to draw more than 12,000 people. The festival hosted by the Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with help from more than 100 volunteers and about two dozen sponsors, including the Beacon-News.

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