A pair of Cumberland County cities will celebrate a historic event this weekend with ethnic festivals that are growing larger every year.

The annual Cinco de Mayo festivals will be held Saturday in Vineland and on Sunday in Bridgeton.

Vineland’s three-year-old event is becoming so well attended that the festival will move out of Landis MarketPlace and take up an entire city block. The 600 block of Landis Avenue will be closed from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the event.

“This is probably six or seven times bigger than it was last year,” said Gary Holloway of Main Street Vineland.

And in Bridgeton, the festival, which runs from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and is centered around Laurel and Washington streets, will include a beer garden. Carola Hartley of Main Street Bridgeton said the event in the county seat is expected to draw at least 5,000 people.

Both festivals feature food, music, crafts and entertainment for the family. Bridgeton’s will again feature horses that dance to mariachi music, Hartley said.

Cinco de Mayo — or the Fifth of May — commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the occupying French in 1862. The battle did not end the Franco-Mexican War, which continued until 1867, but was an important step toward Mexican independence.

Both Bridgeton and Vineland have significant Hispanic populations: U.S. Census Bureau statistics show about 44 percent of Bridgeton’s nearly 25,300 residents are Hispanic, while about 38 percent of Vineland’s almost 60,900 residents are Hispanic.

The census data show 18.5 percent of New Jersey’s 8.9 million residents are Hispanic.

The Pew Research Center shows that New Jersey’s estimated 1.6 million Hispanics make up the seventh-largest Hispanic state population in the United States. About 29 percent of that population is Puerto Rican, which is New Jersey’s largest Hispanic origin group, according to the center’s statistics.

Puerto Ricans have historically been the largest Hispanic origin group in Vineland. Mexicans have traditionally been the largest Hispanic origin group in Bridgeton.

However, officials in both Bridgeton and Vineland say the festivals attract a broad range of ethnic visitors and residents.

“The 3rd Annual Cinco de Mayo celebration will be a festive and exciting cultural occasion that embraces all of our residents and celebrates the diversity of our city,” said Vineland Mayor Ruben Bermudez, the city’s first Hispanic chief executive.

The festivals also have the potential be economic stimulators, he said.

“Positive family events such as this help bring new visitors to our city, who in turn help support the local economy by spending money in our restaurants, stores, gas stations and specialty shops,” Bermudez said.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.