Cinco de Mayo 2019

People pack the parking lot in front of Casa Maria in Watson for the restaurant’s Cinco de Mayo block party on Sunday, May 5, 2019. Owner Fahim Jamil called it the biggest day of the year for his restaurant.

One of Livingston Parish’s biggest parties is back.

After having to scale down the celebration last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Casa Maria Mexican Grill has big plans in store when it brings back its annual “Cinco Watson Fest” on Saturday, May 1.

Gates for the all-day blowout will be open from 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., and there will be plenty of food, drinks, and live music for all to enjoy, said Casa Maria owner Fahim Jamil.

This year’s slate of performers includes New Orleans-based bands Bag of Donuts and the Molly Ringwalds in addition to hometown favorite The Chase Tyler Band.

Entry fee is $20 per person, and children 6 years and younger get in for free. There is no reserved seating, and there will also be a tent set up in the parking lot. 

Speaking to The News earlier this week, Jamil said he expects a big crowd for this weekend’s event, especially after Gov. John Bel Edwards further loosened COVID-19 restrictions regarding face coverings, outdoor social gatherings, and live music amid improving hospitalizations and vaccinations.

And Jamil is certain the party will look much different than the modified celebration in 2020.

Last year’s Cinco de Mayo holiday came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and while the state was still under a stay-at-home order. In adherence to the governor’s orders that placed limits on businesses and crowd sizes, business owners had to revamp their traditional Cinco de Mayo celebrations into smaller outings.

For restaurants, those stipulations included no tableside service, no indoor seating, no groups together of more than 10, and at least 6 feet of space between tables arranged outside. Many restaurants converted their parking lots into outdoor dining areas, and customers also sat in their cars, on tailgates, or in their own fold-out chairs they brought from home.

For Jamil, whose annual event draws thousands to his restaurant’s parking lot off Highway 16 in Watson, it wasn’t the same.

“Last year was tough,” Jamil said. “We didn’t have near the number of the people we usually have for this.”

This year promises to be closer to normal.

In late March, Edwards removed capacity limits on many business settings, including restaurants, and removed an 11 p.m. cutoff for alcohol sales at bars and restaurants.

In his latest proclamation, Edwards removed capacity limits on outdoor events.

Jamil said he had already acquired a permit from the state to hold the event even before Edwards’ announcement this week. Being one of the first live music festivals in the area this year, Jamil hopes people will come “ready to have a good time.”

Jamil said his entire staff is excited for the celebration, “from the kitchen workers in the back to the hostesses up front.” He also said some regulars have thanked him for “doing something normal,” recalling a conversation he had with a customer who said he was so excited that he plans to “buy drinks for the person on his left and right every time he gets in line.”

“People are just ready to get out and ready to have fun,” Jamil said. “It’s a pretty big deal for us, especially after going through COVID. I think having this event will help everybody come back together and just have a good time and help us move on with our lives.”

Below is the schedule for Cinco Watson Fest:

Time/date: 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m. Saturday, May 1

Gate fee: $20 per person (children 6 and younger get in free)

Bag of Donuts: 1:30 p.m.

The Chase Tyler Band: 5 p.m.

The Molly Ringwalds: 9 p.m.

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