They came from all over Texas to help break the world record, decked in full Mariachi vestments with their preferred instrument in hand. Sure, for some, the sombrero was not really their own but a loaner from the "Sombrero Station" set up at the side of the old gymnasium at Alice High School.
It might have been Coastal Bend College's ninth annual Dia del Mariachi competition, but it was its first attempt at breaking the record. They knew the lack of sombreros could potentially be their downfall, but with nearly 90 donated for the attempt, including 26 from competition judge Jose Solis and another 35 from San Diego High School, the organizers breathed slightly easier.
By about 3:30 p.m., San Diego High School director and guest conductor John Vela walked to the top of the stands and began organizing the players, moving the horns to his left, the strings to his right and other instruments, including guitarrons, vihuelas and even harps into an all-encompassing "rhythm" section in the center and rear.
It was a large gathering, but they needed more than 555 Mariachis total to beat the Guinness world record for largest Mariachi ensemble set last April at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference in Tuscon, Ariz.
There were other conditions, too. The group had to play continuously for 12 minutes. Because CBC couldn't afford to have a Guinness world record adjuncticator present, a trio of cameras were set up to capture the attempt along with verifiers spread throughout the gym to monitor that everyone was actually playing.
At about 4 p.m., Vela raised his baton and conducted the group through its first rehearsal. Vela arranged the four songs they were going to play, which included the well-known songs "La Negra," "El Rey," "Volver, Volver" and "Los Laureles."
For the initial run-through, the group clicked instantly. Even though many of the participants had never played together before, indeed just a few hours prior they were in competition with one another, one wouldn't know it once they began.
After the first rehearsal, Vela said he was worried that they were going to fall short of the required 12 minutes. He told the group to finish with a reprise of "Volver, Volver" just to be safe.
The group rehearsed a second time, playing with more gusto than their first time. At this point, the stands were filled with spectators, many who brought video cameras with them.
In front of the hundreds of Mariachi players, seven dancers from Ms. Maggie's School of Dance, ranging from the ages of 4 to 11 years old, entertained the crowd along with the group.
By the end of the second rehearsal, the group had played continuously for 13 minutes and 25 seconds. They were ready.
But then came the news. Dia del Mariachi coordinator Juan Jose Sanchez spoke with Vela, who relayed to the participants that they were not going to break the record. They needed 556 players to surpass it. They had 315.
"It's like when someone's running for an election and they don't get enough votes," Vela said.
CBC Distance Education Director Michelle Duran also spoke with the group. She said CBC was extremely happy and wanted to thank everyone that came out along with Alice ISD for use of the gym.
"It takes great effort to make this happen and we're extremely excited so hopefully we'll keep going and maybe in the coming years, who knows, maybe we'll bring the record back (to Texas)," Duran said.
Before leaving, the group played one final time. It might not have been a record-breaking performance, but nobody left that old gym disappointed as more than 300 Mariachi players from all over Texas came together to be part of something special. And for the next 13-and-a-half minutes, it was.