First weekend of May full of special events

Now don't go getting all excited. I didn't call May lusty. Lerner did. Or Lowe. Or whichever of the two did the lyrics for "Camelot."

I don't know how lusty the month will turn out to be, but I am glad May is here, because June can't be far behind. And we are really starting the month out with a whiz-bang of a weekend, aren't we?

Wow! What a day! Everywhere you look there is a commemoration or reason to celebrate - not that we Americans have to look very hard for a reason to celebrate.

If I am not mistaken, the date at the top of the page says May 5. Cinco de Mayo!

It's on a Saturday this year, which will make the margarita toasting even more convenient than usual for those who aren't content to celebrate with a couple of tacos or a plate of sizzling fajitas.

Puff up if you want to, but y'all know that's what will be going on all over the Atlanta area this evening. The "Mexican" population in the area, which is already quite large, will expand exponentially once the sun goes down - sort of like when everybody turns Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Like I said - any excuse to party.

But I can't help but wonder how many of this evening's celebrants will even know what is celebrated on Cinco de Mayo. I'm not putting on airs, understand. I freely admit that I didn't know either until I looked it up. I wrongly assumed that it was Mexican Independence Day. I bet a lot of you did, too.

Nope. I apologize for stooping so low as to teach you something on a quasi-holiday, but Mexico won her independence from Spain on Sept. 10, 1810. Have another margarita on that day if you care to, but on May 5 in 1862, the Mexicans defeated a combined army of French soldiers and Mexican traitors at a little place called Puebla - about 100 miles east of Mexico City.

We get to celebrate tonight because the Mexicans defeated the French. What a great country!

Know what else happened on this day in history? Fast-forward about 99 years and northeast about 1,500 miles. That would put you at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Raise your hand if you know what happened on May 5, 1961, at Cape Canaveral.

If you said that Alan Shepard became the first American in space, you'd receive a gold star. Take an extra five bonus points if you recall that his vehicle was called Mercury 7.

I wasn't around when the Mexican army defeated the French, but I vividly remember Shepard's liftoff. I watched it on television in Miss Elizabeth Willis' third-grade class. I couldn't take my eyes off the television screen.

We were struggling mightily against the Soviets in the space race, you recall. They had launched Sputnik four years earlier while we could barely get a rocket off the ground. By the time we had a satellite, they had a dog in space. By the time we had an animal - a chimp, I believe - they had a man. And on this date in history, 46 years ago, we finally sent Shepard zooming off beyond the Earth's atmosphere. He stayed up there about 15 minutes, too.

Hey. We had to start somewhere.

I'm not saying we should all go out and toast Shepard tonight instead of the 1862 Mexican army - just pointing out the anniversary of our first venture into space.

If these events don't provide enough commemoration, there's more. 1607 - 400 years ago. Jamestown, Va. First permanent English colony in North America. That's a pretty big deal, and they are celebrating it for an entire month up in Virginia. The celebration is so big that the Queen of England crossed the pond to attend. Somebody said it was her first visit to Jamestown in 50 years. That's a long time between visits.

But as long as she's here, well - there's at least one more big event going on today - in Louisville, Ky. The 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

The first Saturday in May has always been a big day in our household, whether the date be the first or the seventh - or the fifth.

I'm not sure why I got so interested in this particular horse race, but I did - and at a young age, too. When they start running for the roses, I will set all other business aside and tune in. I will be drinking mint iced tea instead of a julep or a margarita, but I'll sing along with the crowd when they sing "My Old Kentucky Home," and I will get a tingle in the pit of my stomach when the horses parade to post, and no matter who wins, I'll swear it was the horse I picked.

They tell me the queen will, indeed, be in Louisville this afternoon. I hope she brought a suitable hat, and I hope they show her on television so I can see if she's having a good time.

As if we need any more reason to celebrate - the weatherman says there is a 30 percent chance of rain tonight.

I don't believe him, though. I'd bet on Queen Elizabeth II to ride the winner in the Derby before I'd bet on rain in Georgia - but we can always hope.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.