Cinco De Mayo Draws 3,000 to Freshwater Fisheries Center

Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277,

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ATHENS, Texas — Six-inch rains struck East Texas on Saturday, May 1, but that did not deter crowds from flooding into the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center for the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration.

By the time the event ended prematurely at 6:30 p.m. due to continued rainfall, more than 3,000 visitors came to enjoy tacos, mangoes-on-a-stick, conjunto music and dance performances by students from the Athens Independent School District. Many took advantage of free admission to TFFC beginning at 1 p.m. and toured the exhibits and fished in the stocked 1.5-acre pond.

The event was sponsored by the Athens High School Interact Club, the Henderson County YMCA and TFFC.

"This event is one of our biggest of the year and is the best way we have of reaching large numbers of Hispanics in our community and introducing them to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department," said TFFC director Allen Forshage. "By getting attendees interested in fishing, we hope they will go on to buy fishing licenses and become supporters of TPWD programs."

Fought on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo), 1862, the Battle of Puebla is a source of great pride for the Mexican people. Invaded and defeated by the United States in the Mexican War in 1848, Mexico suffered severe economic problems. The country borrowed heavily from European nations such as England, Spain and France but was forced to suspend payments on the debts in 1861.

Napoleon III, Emperor of France, wanted to control Mexico to get its raw materials and to check the growing power of the United States. In 1862 his invading army was met at Puebla by an untrained, poorly equipped Mexican army commanded by General Ignacio Zaragoza, who was born in Goliad, Texas. Greatly outnumbered, the heroic Mexican patriots defeated the French at Puebla, though the country remained under French control until 1867.

Descendants of those brave Mexican heroes helped settle southern Texas and brought their national pride and heritage with them. Today Hispanic and Anglo peoples alike celebrate Cinco de Mayo statewide in recognition of their joint heritage.

The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is an innovative aquatic nature center and hatchery complex operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department located 75 miles southeast of Dallas on FM 2495, four miles east of Athens. Attractions include 300,000 gallons of aquaria, daily dive shows and on-site fishing. Hours are Tue.-Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m. Admission fees are adults $5.50, seniors $4.50, children 4-12 $3.50. For information go on-line ( and click on fishing or call the center at (903) 676-2277.