Delectable wafts of grilled meats, candy corn and spices swirled around the heart of Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood Sunday.
The annual Cinco de Mayo celebration once again transformed the old Albertsons parking lot on Sebastopol Road into a festival of more than 10,000 people celebrating the food, dance and cultures of Mexico.
"Cinco de Mayo is a day when we all get to celebrate our culture, more than any other day," said Fernanda Diaz, 16, of Santa Rosa, a junior at Roseland University Prep.
With a sparkling crown, yellow gown and red sash, Diaz walked through the food stalls with her younger siblings and mother. She savored her last moments as the reigning La Reina del Cinco de Mayo, or queen of Cinco de Mayo.
She later handed the crown to University Prep sophomore Yezli Florez, 16, at a ceremony at the main stage.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when the Mexican Army defeated the French in the skirmish. The battle has become a symbol of Mexican identity, primarily for those living outside of Mexico.
Sunday was the festival's eighth year. Community organizers banded together to start an official event in 2006 after years of spontaneous May 5 parties brought confrontations between law enforcement and revelers.
Since the Roseland community took charge of the annual celebration in Santa Rosa, the day has been a positive one.
"It's going great, as it does every year," said Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm, who stopped by a booth to chat with event volunteers.
At a stage on the southeast corner of the old Albertsons lot, the announcer warned: Don't try this at home.
Gerardo Sanchez, 13, wearing the a white Taekwondo uniform and a red advanced belt, launched into a series of flips and in the last rotation split a board with his foot. The crowd clapped and roared.
Sanchez, an eighth-grader at Cali Calm?ac Language Academy in Windsor, performed with the Cali Kicks Martial Arts Academy from Santa Rosa.
The group and other local acts performed on two stages, with student dance troops, rock bands and professional mariachi musicians in sharp suits.
El Molino High School students Marta Aparicio, 19, and Ariana Monta?, 18, took a break from their volunteer duties to watch the folklorico dance group Quetzal? swirl to the drum beat.
People formed a deep circle around the dancers, hoisting children onto shoulders and holding their phones in the air to take pictures.
Horses pranced up and down Sebastopol Road, closed to traffic during the festival.
Children lined the curb for a chance to pet an Azteca quarterhorse ridden by Felix Cabrera of Santa Rosa.
"What's the horse's name?" asked 9-year-old James Montes of Las Vegas, who is visiting an uncle in Santa Rosa.
"So?dor," said Cabrera, who works as a foreman for a Petaluma slaughterhouse.
At a booth for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Sonoma County, Fabiola Espinosa, 27, of Santa Rosa greeted a friend, Jose Garcia, 28, of Santa Rosa.
Garcia stopped by the booth after eating barbecue, signed up for a newsletter and headed toward the second stage where a rock band played.
Espinosa had been waving young people over to the table to tell them about the chamber's Young Professionals Network for people between ages 20 and 40.