Category Archives: Birmingham

Fiesta Fridays! 2003 to 2006

NOTE;  Fiesta Fridays is a special series to highlight the many memories I have of Fiesta through the photographs I’ve taken since 2003. 

Fiesta, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage is 15 years old this year!  I’ve been spending a lot of time going through old files and photos and reliving the early years of this festival.  Getting a festival like this started was a lot of work and yet those of us who were there at the beginning really didn’t know how big this event would become – or how long it would last!  These photos and document revealed so much history and so many people involved for all these years.  As I was reliving moment through photos, I was also recalling stories and my personal thoughts.  So as we get closer to our 15th anniversary this year, I decided to begin posting a photo each Friday with a little story – I’m calling these “Fiesta Friday” photos on Facebook and Instagram.  It occurred to me though that there is more to tell about some of these photos and the people involved and the best way to do this is on my blog.

So this post will be about the photos I’ve already posted from 2003 to 2006.  There are so many photos to choose from too!  I started taking the photos at Fiesta the first year never imagining that I would become the official “unofficial” photographer of the event.  I was using film and switched to digital a few years later but these are the photos that really stick out to me of the thousands that I’ve taken.

Fiesta 2003 – My friends Lui Fernandez and Jasmine Reyes dance next to the Main Stage while Susan Daywood, Rei Ramos and Hernan Prado watch and enjoy the music!

2003 – Fiesta’s first year…  I was at the main stage – the Coca Cola main stage and found a group of friends from the Hispanic Business Council (HBC)on the side of the stage dancing and having a great time.  It was getting close to the final acts and everyone was so happy about the success of our first ever event!  We had expected about 2,000 people to come through but when the numbers were finally counted, we had about 7,000 attendees our very first year!  Overwhelming would be an appropriate word to describe our feelings that day.  I snapped this photo of Jasmine Reyes dancing with a young man.  Behind her are Susan Daywood with the City of Birmingham and a member of the HBC, Rei Ramos with the HBC and Hernan Prado, also with the HBC.  What I didn’t realize at the time is that the young man Jasmine was dancing with would become a huge part of Fiesta.  Luis “Lui” Fernandez is a current board member and has been instrumental in creating the “heart” of Fiesta – the Cultural Village.  He took it from a few posters to a group of community members excited about portraying their respective countries and sharing this information with Fiesta guests each year.  When he is in charge of something, I never worry about how it will turn out because Lui has a special talent in creating something to remember!

Fiesta 2003 – Salsa dancers on the main stage

2004 -Fiesta’s second year – This photo was taken from the Coca Cola Main Stage and is of two dancers.  They drew quite the crowd early in the day that year.  Their dancing was on point along with the DJ playing salsa music.  I was taken by the pure joy of the dance that they shared with Fiesta guests that day.  This photo was used in many of the early marketing and advertising we used of Fiesta to potential sponsors and on our website.

Entrance to the Cultural Village created by Lui Fernandez – Fiesta 2004

2004 – Another photo from Fiesta’s second year is of the entrance to the Cultural Village.  You’ve already read how much I admire and respect Lui Fernandez’s talent and this particular year, he decided to create an actual entrance to the village!  I like to say that this was the year the Cultural Village really came to life!  It was the year that music broke out all over the village and people were dancing on the sidewalk and there was always a steady crowd of people walking through to experience this community driven village.  Lui created the entrance with the logo and before the event opened, he added flags from all the Hispanic countries to the white posts which made the entrance even more colorful.  It was such a beautiful sight!

Fiesta board member – Mike Suco – helps his parents, Teresa and Ramon Suco – set up the Cuba booth in the Cultural Village in 2005.

2005 – Fiesta’s 3rd year – This is such a favorite photo of mine because it features Fiesta board member, Mike Suco with his parents – Teresa and Ramon Suco.  Mike’s mother, Teresa, found out that Cuba was NOT represented the year before in the cultural village and she was not going to let that happen that particular year!  She took it upon herself to create a beautiful Cuba booth along with her husband and as you can see in this photo – her son, Mike too!  Teresa and Ramon Suco fled Cuba under the Castro regime in 1962, shortly after they were married and came to the US not knowing the language or anyone and made a great life for themselves and their children.  Mr.Suco worked his way to District Supervisor at Big B Drugs while Teresa Suco became a Professor of Spanish at Jacksonville State University.  I remember the first year I was President of Fiesta, Mike told me his mother asked about me and wanted to make sure I was doing all right and he was helping me enough!  I always felt we had a special bond because we shared the same name.  Such lovely people…

2006 – Fiesta’s 4th year – I had been photographing Fiesta all day and was trying to head over to the VIP area to grab a quick bite to eat when I saw Cultural Village (CV) Chair, Lui Fernandez rush over to me.  He excitedly told me I needed to get to the CV stage right away and get some pictures!  Of course, I followed him right over and there on the stage were the cutest children dressed in traditional Mexican costumes dancing traditional Mexican dances!  Their faces were so sweet too!  I remember thinking they seemed so shy and yet they were smiling and dancing their little hearts out for the crowd that had gathered.  This was the year we added the CV stage and I remember there was quite a bit of activity with other dance performances and even a short play in Spanish!  I’m just so grateful that Lui saw me when he did and told me to get to the stage or I would have missed this performance.  This became one of my favorite memories of Fiesta in 2006 – seeing the sweet faces of these children and seeing my friend, Lui’s face, beaming from a distance as he watched this take place…

More to come so please come back every Friday through September 30, 2017!

Fiesta 2016 – Some of my Favorite Photos

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Drummer for Los Canarios on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day!  The sky was blue and the temperature reached the low 80s and the sun made itself known throughout the day.  After the constant drizzle of the previous year, this was so welcomed to the Fiesta board, volunteers and especially the patrons!

Approximately 14,000 people made their way to Linn Park in downtown Birmingham for the 14th annual Fiesta event on Saturday, September 24.  My favorite things to do every single year is to walk the park, visiting all the booths and meeting and greeting all the nonprofits, businesses and vendors who come to be a part of this incredible event.  I take their photos, welcome the new folks and catch up with old friends along the way.

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A little girl wearing a traditional Mexican dress gets her nails painted in the Family Village.

One of the highlights of this years event was the competition between countries in the Cultural Village – the heart of Fiesta.  A group of judges went through – anonymously – and voted on the best country booth based on presentation and creativity.   This year the Mexico won the competition and took home $500!  Next year, the stakes will be even higher as the best country booth will walk away with $1,000!

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A collage of photos from past Fiestas adorned the Mexico booth in the Cultural Village. The Mexico booth won the first ever competition of Cultural Village country booths!

By the way…next year will be Fiesta’s 15th year anniversary – our quinceanera…and we have big things planned for this milestone!  Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 30, 2017, for Fiesta 2017 and stay tuned for an event packed year leading up to this great event!

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Mark your calendar for Fiesta 2017!!!!!

Meanwhile…please enjoy some of my favorite photos from this year’s Fiesta!

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Sojourns Fair Trade Store

IMG_0007This afternoon I stopped by Sojourns Fair Trade Store in downtown Birmingham.  This place is such a treasure!  I mean,  I seriously never leave this store without dropping a chunk of change but I just can’t resist all the beautiful things!  From jewelry and clothing to lovely pieces of art from all over the world…if you are looking for unique gifts, this is the place!

When I arrived, Melissa Kendrick, my friend and owner, was busy getting new clothing merchandise ready to display for sale.  She greeted me with a big hug and began telling me about the clothing and a pop-up shop she is preparing to open in Montgomery.  I still remember the first time I met Melissa.  It was at her first location just down the street from her current location – 2017 Third Avenue North.  I went in at the recommendation of two friends who worked nearby and immediately fell in love with the place!  I remember having the nicest conversation with Melissa and thinking how wonderful to have a store like this in Birmingham!

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Sojourns was the first wholly fair trade store in Alabama.  They offer unique items produced under fair trade standards from 57 countries.  For more about what fair trade is, visit the Fair Trade Federation website.  A sign in the store shares that fair trade wages are designed to provide fair compensation based on the true cost of production and are not based on any developed world wage standards.  Fair wages are determined by a number of factors including the amount of time, skill and effort involved in production, living wages where products are made, the purchasing power in a community or area and other costs of living in the local context.

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Over the years I’ve purchased quite a number of items for my home and as gifts.  A few years ago, I took my daughters with me and I was oohing and aahing over a wooden salad bowl set and they surprised me with it for Christmas!  I was recently in the store with my mother and bought quite a few Day of the Dead items to add to my growing collection.  I have a collection nativity retablos too.  Today I was looking for a few more nativities and there were quite a few from all over the world.  It was hard to decide!

One of the Day of the Dead items I bought recently at Sojourns.

One of the Day of the Dead items I bought recently at Sojourns.

Melissa told me today that she wants to maintain a Day of the Dead section in her store as well as a Christmas section too.  She is expecting quite a few large shipments just in time for Christmas.  If you are looking for something different and something that you can feel good about purchasing, stop by Sojourns and take a look around.  I guarantee that you won’t leave the store without an item or two!  Here are a few photos of the store from my recent visits in a slide show.  Seriously…go visit Melissa at Sojourns soon!

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A Look Back at Birmingham’s Day of the Dead Festival

Candles light one of the altars at Day of the Dead #13

Candles light one of the altars at Day of the Dead #13

Every year I look forward to Birmingham’s Day of the Dead Festival.  This was year 13 for the festival and while it was a rainy day, the rain stopped right before the event was set to start and people made their way downtown.  As I’ve always said, DOD is a photographer’s mecca!  For a week after the event, it’s fun to see all the social media posts and photos of everyone dressed out in sugar skulls.  Photographers J. C. Bravo and Larry O.Gay are always on hand and capture incredible shots of the people .  In my opinion, their photos are breathtaking and really showcase the beauty of Day of the Dead.  Check J.C. and Larry out on Facebook when you get a chance and you’ll see what I mean…

Photo taken by photographer Larry O. Gay with my camera. Thanks Larry!

Photo taken by photographer Larry O. Gay with my camera. Thanks Larry!

At one point early in the evening, Larry grabbed my camera and took a photo of me with my husband, and my friend Theresa Deleon and her daughter.  So I now have an “original” Larry Gay photo on my very own camera!  Thanks Larry!

Meanwhile, instead of talking about the event, I’ll just let my own photos tell the story…

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Fiesta 2015…two thousand pictures later…

Mosaico Flamenco performs on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

Mosaico Flamenco performs on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

Every year, my main focus at Fiesta is capturing all the fun and festivities  with my camera.  From the set up to the village activities to the musical acts…I take a ton of photos!  This year though, I think I topped my all time number of photos.  As I downloaded from my camera on Sunday morning, I couldn’t believe the total number was well over two thousand pics!  Editing is going to be fun…

One of the things that struck me as I flipped through the photos was the fact that the rain and cold weather on Saturday didn’t make a bit of difference in the smiles and enjoyment of the people who attended.  Experiencing Fiesta in the cold and rain was new for ALL of us.  Not that I want inclement weather for Fiesta 2016…but it’s clear that everyone made the most of Fiesta in the cold and rain and enjoyed it as if it were 80 degrees and sunny!  I love our Fiesta family!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures so far…

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Fiesta 2015 Rain or Shine!

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This was the crowd during the last two acts of the night…incredible! Despite the cold!

This was Fiesta’s “lucky” 13th year.  Every year as we (the organizers) approach the event, we always keep our fingers crossed about the weather and every year with the exception of one, the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm.  This year, the outlook started out that way…we kept looking at the forecast and it showed mild temperatures but sunny.  Perfect, you could say!  Then closer to the event, it showed cloudy and a chance of showers.  Then it started raining…

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Two Fiesta patrons in rain gear on their way to the Coca Cola Music Stage.

When you have an outdoor festival, you have to expect the weather will catch up with you at some point.  So for Fiesta’s 13th year, it did.  We thought the rain would stop by noon – that’s when Fiesta “officially” opens, so we were hopeful.  Then the forecast changed to 1 p.m. – and if you were there, you know that didn’t happen.  I think we were just on the wrong side of the road when it came to the rain.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a downpour.  And thankfully, people came out and simply put on hats, rain ponchos or just didn’t care about getting wet.  Incredibly, as the day went on, and the drizzle came and went, people kept coming and enjoying the villages and especially the music.  All in all, I would have to say this was one of our best years!

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Veronica Richey with BB&T Bank threw on a rain poncho and got to work at her booth at Fiesta wearing a Costa Rica hat!

This year’s Fiesta showed us that people love this event and want to be here no matter what.  It also proved to be one of the most diverse crowds I believe we have ever had.  This absolutely thrilled us. This event matters to the Hispanic community and also to the community at large and this was proven with the numbers we saw all day long.  About 10,000 people made it to Fiesta this year!

Personally, I had the best time once I stopped worrying about my soggy hair.  Thank goodness for hair pins!  As I walked through the park and strolled down the Cultural Village with my camera, I grew a little  concerned for the Cultural Village.   Each year these wonderful members of our Hispanic community bring their own personal artifacts and treasures to share with the Fiesta patrons.  The tents helped keep things dry and the rain didn’t seem to affect those who were there.  They just adjusted and pulled the crowds in to share their country stories.

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Los Millos booth at the Food Village – this was early in the day as the food vendors began preparing food for the day. This is where I got the delicious empanadas from Jairo and Lucero Vargas!

So, right after my friends and Latino News owners,  Jairo and Lucero Vargas treated me to empanadas at the Colombian food vendor – Los Millos, I walked through the village and visited my friend Miguel Vilchez who pulled the Peru booth together.  He gave me a red Peruvian hat to wear to take care of my hair later that day – even though he said my hair looked fine – he’s such a gentleman!  Across from Peru was the Mexico booth.  Maria and Luis had pulled together two booths of beautiful Mexican art and pottery.  It was so colorful!  They gave me a Jarrito jug as a gift which is simply beautiful and then poured me a tequila shot and we took selfies.  Next I went to take photos of the Cuba booth where they gave me some Cuban coffee…OMGEEEE!  That was so wonderful and after the tequila, it REALLY warmed me up.  When I tell you how awesome the Cultural Village is, you need to believe me!  Because of the weather, we all huddled closer together under each tent as we made our way through the village and vendors stationed throughout.  It was such a great feeling of friendship and belonging.  It’s the type of feeling I want everyone to experience at Fiesta.

And here I was worried about the rain…

Me and Miguel at the Peru booth.

Me and Miguel at the Peru booth.

Jarrito jars at the Mexico booth.  This is the type of clay jar that Maria and Luis gave to me at Fiesta.  So beautiful!!!

Jarrito jars at the Mexico booth. This is the type of clay jar that Maria and Luis gave to me at Fiesta. So beautiful!!!

Some of the beautiful items displayed at the Mexico booth!

Some of the beautiful items displayed at the Mexico booth!

Cuba booth!  The Cuban coffee was safely tucked away behind the table...

Cuba booth! The Cuban coffee was safely tucked away behind the table…

Believe it or not...this little cup of Cuban coffee did wonders for the chill I was experiencing at Fiesta!  Packed a punch!

Believe it or not…this little cup of Cuban coffee did wonders for the chill I was experiencing at Fiesta! Packed a punch!

With Maria and Luis at the Mexico booth toasting to a wonderful event with a tequila shot!  Salud!

With Maria and Luis at the Mexico booth toasting to a wonderful event with a tequila shot! Salud!

A few items from the Peru booth - Miguel gave me the red hat to wear as he packed up his booth to leave...sure did help hide my soggy hair!

A few items from the Peru booth – Miguel gave me the red hat to wear as he packed up his booth to leave…sure did help hide my soggy hair!

Puerto Rico booth!

Puerto Rico booth!

Fiesta Night with Los Barons – Part 2

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

It was a beautiful afternoon…the weather was great, sun shining and a slight breeze found its way through the park every so often.  I thought I was arriving at the park early to help Fiesta’s event manager extraordinaire, Denise Koch, put Fiesta flyers in all the cup holders at Regions Park.  I should have known better.  Denise had been hard at work since early that morning on Fiesta Night with Los Barons and had everything under control.  I “did” manage to wrestle a small stack of the flyers away from her and finish up one section so she could take a break.

These Fiesta flyers were placed in every cup holder at Regions Field.

These Fiesta flyers were placed in every cup holder at Regions Field.

Fiesta and the Birmingham Barons partnered for a second year to bring a Latin flair to the ballpark this past August.  Our thanks go out to the wonderful people at the Birmingham Barons, in particular, John Cook, Director of Sales, and Don Leo, Corporate Sales Manager, with the Corporate Partnerships Department, for all they did to make our time there so enjoyable.

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta's founding board members poses with his son Mikey, and Barons Staff Members John Cook and Don Leo.

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta’s founding board members poses with his son Mikey, and Barons Staff Members John Cook and Don Leo.

Once again, we had students from Samford University’s Latin American Studies participate in the parade of Latin American flags.  We even had a few sponsors get into the act which thrilled us!  Our sponsors from BB&T and Regions Bank both grabbed flags and made their way around the infield with the students and Fiesta board members.  It was such a beautiful sight!

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Next, Don Leo introduced Fiesta and a short video of last year’s event was shown on the big screen.  The video was produced by board member Orlando Rosa with La Jefa Radio Station.  Ever the perfectionist, Orlando mentioned later that he wasn’t completely happy with the video but the rest of us LOVED it!  It definitely got the crowd going and gave them a taste of what to expect on October 3rd!

Fiesta board member, Orlando Rosa helps Don Leo of The Barons open up the game festivities in Spanish!

Fiesta board member, Orlando Rosa helps Don Leo of The Barons open up the game festivities in Spanish!

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta’s founding board members was on hand with his son Mikey, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.  Mike didn’t miss a beat and never lingered on the pitcher’s mound.  He threw out the perfect pitch so fast we almost missed it!  Reminded me of the early days of Fiesta when Mike would just get things done!  It thrilled us to have Mike and his family with us that night to celebrate and reminisce about Fiesta, especially for some of the newer board members and sponsors who had never met him but heard a few of us talk about him with such admiration over the years.

Mike Suco, throws out the ceremonial first pitch as his son watches beside him.

Mike Suco, throws out the ceremonial first pitch as his son watches beside him.

As always, we had the opportunity to talk to interested people attending the Barons game about Fiesta and encourage them to get advance tickets to the event.  Ronald McDonald came by to represent our Title Sponsor, McDonalds, and had pictures made with kids young and old.  I always love it when adults want their picture made with Ronald!  I had mine made with him last year!

One of the many photos Ronald McDonald took with Barons Baseball game attendees.

One of the many photos Ronald McDonald took with Barons Baseball game attendees.

Don’t forget…Fiesta is Saturday, October 3rd from noon to 8 p.m. in downtown Linn Park!  Meanwhile, here are a few more pics from our night with Los Barons!

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Mike Suco and his son pose with the baseball before the ceremonial first pitch is thrown.

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We had to get our photo with Ronald too! Left to right – Ronald, me, Vanesa Vargas and Freddy Rubio.

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Orlando pulled double duty at the game with a live remote, along with his wife and co-worker, Maria – better known on air as La Chikis!

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Parting shot of the Regions Field Birmingham sign as I was walking to my car after the game. This is such a beautiful facility. If you’ve never been, you have to check it out!

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The parade of Latin American flags begins and is lead by the Stars and Stripes of the USA! That’s Fiesta Board member, Vanesa Vargas with the Fiesta sign in front!