It was a day to celebrate Latino heritage and collect as many freebies as one can fit into a plastic bag.
Downtown's 12th annual Fiesta Broadway, commemorating Cinco de Mayo, attracted about half a million people Sunday, according to event organizers.
The spectacular party, which stretched from Temple Street to 11th Street along Broadway, included carnival-type games, food booths, Legal Aid offices and various corporate sponsors.
The festival, billed as the nation's largest Cinco de Mayo celebration, honors the 1862 victory of Mexican forces over French troops in Puebla, Mexico.
For children, there was a tall, wavy slide, hundreds of huge stuffed animals to win, a giant inflatable Twister game and inverted bungee jumping.
In one large booth, men were taking turns tossing quarters toward tables with strategically arranged dishes, glasses, mugs and porcelain bowls while their wives and girlfriends stood behind them.
Roberto Cruz, 35, of Van Nuys said he was attempting to find enough dishes and glasses to furnish his kitchen.
The native of El Salvador was succeeding. With his eye on a pretty mug that seemed out of reach, he had already stacked before him two glasses bearing the Mexican flag, a large bowl, a plate, an ashtray, a gold-embossed cup that said "Te Quiero," and a flowered glass.
As the day got hotter, many shed sweaters, basked in the sun and sipped fruit drinks from carved-out pineapples.
Mounds of chicken, carne asada and hot dogs wrapped in bacon and piled on large grills were difficult to resist. Families sat along the streets for casual curbside dining or made tables out of newspaper racks.
Popular musical acts performed on five stages, mostly on side streets. They included Jon Secada, Jose Jose, Priscila y Sus Balas de Plata and pop group MDO, among others.
Even boxer and Grand Marshal Oscar De La Hoya displayed his vocal talents before a huge crowd, and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan drew a laugh when he introduced himself as "Ricardo" and attempted to speak some Spanish.
The longest lines were at the booths where the most desirable gifts were being handed out.
With people holding plastic bags and lined up for blocks, the most popular goods of the day were mini-deodorant sticks, dishwashing detergent, toothpaste, samplings of fish sticks, colored plastic baby spoons, bags of taco seasoning, cups of soda and copies of People En Espanol magazine. In one booth, Avon representatives were giving away make-overs, checking on body fat and massaging tired backs with hand-held devices.
But this year, Gloria Galeana, 40, of Los Angeles noticed that things were different. Although she said she was mainly there with her two children to hear, in her words, "anything Mexican" such as Paulina Rubio and Priscila y Sus Balas de Plata, she was also stocking up on the freebies.
"Last year they gave us bigger things," she said in Spanish, poking into one of her plastic bags. "This year, they gave us little things, and for such a long wait in line."