This year, Fiesta, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage, turned 16. It’s incredible to me that this little festival, created so many years ago to award scholarships to Hispanic students, has been around this long! Every year, the number of people who come out to Linn Park to celebrate the best of all things Hispanic, thrills me! And then I get nostalgic, remembering previous years and I get excited about the traditions the Fiesta board has kept alive all these years.
This year, the board met early to brainstorm how we would top our 15th anniversary celebration – our Quinceañera. I love it when the conversation starts, the ideas are tossed out and everyone starts talking at once because of the excitement! It was like that when we decided on our theme this year – Celebrando a todo color / Celebrating in Full Color!
We’ve always said that when people think of Hispanic culture the one word that is universal in describing it is “colorful.” It’s a nod to the individual cultures of the many Hispanic countries along with the different foods, music and dance. It really was the perfect theme for Fiesta!
Each year we try to think of something different to offer our patrons and this year it was all about taking the “Fiesta” to each of the villages. We engaged local talent to do this, which to me, made the event more personal. For instance, the mariachi band we invited this year – Mariachi Premier de America – started performing in the middle of the park at the gazebo. After they finished their set, they walked to the different villages to sing more songs. Many of the people working the booths at the different villages don’t always get the opportunity to hear and see what all happens at Fiesta so this was especially nice for them. I saw a friend a week after Fiesta who was working at the Health & Wellness village and she said the people at their tent were so thrilled to be “serenaded” by the mariachi band and hoped we would do this again next year! This is how traditions get started…
We also brought a lot of cultural performances back to Fiesta this year. From the Aztec performers to the traditional Mexican dancers, we had many colorful acts for people to see and enjoy. The Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama opened Fiesta with their traditional flag ceremony and the march of the Hispanic flags around the park. My dear friend, Marisela Mendez, got this tradition started several years ago and we love seeing the Girl Scouts – some dressed in their uniforms and some dressed in traditional Hispanic outfits – participate in Fiesta each year. It’s a personal highlight for me each year. Next, Banda Azteca Tonantzin from St. Francis Xavier Church in Birmingham drew quite a crowd for their first appearance in front of the main stage. I don’t believe we’ve ever had anything quite like this at Fiesta and I hope they’ll come back again because there were moments when I was quite moved watching this group perform.
One of the best moments this year was the last song on the main stage. Our headliner, Frankie J, was performing and started pulling those of us at the back of the stage towards him. The rest of the board came up too and we danced along with Frankie J. as he sang us to the end of Fiesta 2018. It was one of those spontaneous moments that you couldn’t recreate if you tried and the entire board walked away elated about this ending. There are a few videos floating around of us all on stage with Frankie J. and I’ve seen them several times. I love that those are available for us to relive this wonderful moment from Fiesta 2018! And on that note, time to start planning Fiesta 2019!