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St. Louis Cinco De Mayo events draw crowds despite COVID-19 pandemic

"We had great weather and it was just nice to finally get out and not be trapped by covid," said Jazlyn Stancel

ST. LOUIS — "I'm feeling great," said East St. Louis Teacher Jazlyn Stancel.

It was a sunny, picture-perfect day and Stancel and Jayda Paster purposely didn't ponder about a pandemic.

"I'm enjoying my drink, the day and good time," Stancel said.

"It's all about having fun," said Paster.

The two sisters and scores of others packed Cherokee Street in Dutchtown to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

"It's just so nice to just be outside and kind of get out. We've all been trapped inside due to COVID," Stancel said.

For a second straight year, the official Cinco de Mayo party on Cherokee was canceled due to COVID-19.

Still, now that many restaurants have loosened their restrictions and many people have gotten vaccinated, several business owners in the southside district decided to keep their doors open and allow people to celebrate the holiday.

"Any time I go inside or I'm around a large crowd I make sure that I put on my mask and it's covering my mouth and my nose," Stancel said.

Stancel also made sure she had her hand sanitizer handy.

"My sister and I found a table outside here at this popular hall. We're social distancing enough to enjoy it, but not risking anybody else so we're just trying to enjoy ourselves and be safe," added Stancel.

La Manganita restaurant opened up during the pandemic. Owner Jose Manuel Garcia named it after his hometown.  

“I decided to bring a little thing from Mexico to Missouri, " he said.

The family-operated restaurant got off to a slow start. Business has picked up, but hiring help hasn’t.

"People, I don't know if they don't want to work in restaurants anymore,” Garcia said. “I don't know what's going on. It's been very hard."

He’s working with family. The youngest one is making the biggest difference.

"It's fun,” Garcia said. “My son enjoys it so much to come up here on the weekends. He makes his own money and he's so proud of all he can do."

Eight Cherokee Street restaurants are facing off to see who has the best taco. Vote on who you think should win by clicking here.

Hacienda Restaurant in Rock Hill hosted a big party. They, too, are looking younger to hire help.

"Send your kids in for jobs,” Eric Fears, director of operations said. “That's what we need. Not only does everyone else but we are desperate for staff."

Fears said finding help and working supply chain shortages have been the biggest hurdles lately.

“The challenges seem to come and go and every time we get around the corner it seems like there's something waiting for us around the turn,” Fears said.

A few miles away at Union Station, there was even more partying despite the pandemic.

"We've got a lot of procedures and protocols safety-wise and cleaning-wise that are in place to make sure that everyone is staying sanitized and everyone is safe," said Cameron Schoffel, the Director of Sales and Marketing for Union Station.

"It's nice to be out on a beautiful day in St. Louis," said Taylor Meadows.

A sombrero-sporting Meadows enjoyed Cinco-de-Mayo-themed games, food and a lot more aboard four historic train cars.

 About 150 folks flocked to Union Station's long-awaited fiesta.

"I'm having and great time and I'm keeping the mask handy yep, always," Meadows said.

A majority of people at both events either wore masks or had them in their hands.

Organizers say they hope Union Station's first Cinco de Mayo Fiesta will become an annual event.