COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — “We educate the younger generation and keep that tradition going,” said Carmen Abeyta, past chair for El Cinco de Mayo Inc.

Thousands of people spent their Sunday celebrating Cinco de Mayo early, at El Cinco de Mayo Inc.’s 32nd annual Car Show and Fiesta.

Complete with traditional dance.

“There’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand folklórico dancing. We tell somebody we have a Mexican folk dance group. They don’t know what that is,” said Connie Benavidez, director of Ballet Folklórico de la Raza.

Organizers with the nonprofit say it’s more than just throwing one big party.

“That’s a big celebration, a big time to honor people,” Abeyta said.

People like 18-year-old Nayda Benitez. A student at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, she’s one of four students to receive a scholarship from the nonprofit.

“I’m not from a family that has a lot of money, and not only that, I’m actually a student that has deferred residential status. And it’s really, really hard to gather state and federal financial aid of any kind,” Benitez said.

She says without the scholarships, she wouldn’t be in college today.

That makes Cinco de Mayo personally important to her.

“To me it means hope. It stands for all the organizations that are willing to trust students and help students and believe in them,” Benitez said.

“Education is really the key to success,” Abeyta said.