Category Archives: Festival

Fiesta 2017 – A Celebration of Generations!

Fiesta Co-Presidents, Teresa Zuniga Odom and Vanessa Vargas pose with the newly unveiled Fiesta 15th Anniversary – Quince – logo!

A Celebration of Generations…that’s what Fiesta 2017, the Quinceañera, was billed as and it definitely delivered!

Planning Fiesta has turned into a year-round job for our board of directors and our incredible event manager, Denise Koch.  In recent years, we’ve begun the planning process in November instead of waiting until February.  As the festival grows, this is a must in order to stay ahead of the game and also make sure we are offering our patrons new and exciting additions to the event each year.  We are a working board but everyone also has a day job too so…

Our Fiesta t-shirts this year – Fiesta…then Siesta!

During our anniversary years in the past, the board had a new logo created in celebration and we’ve looked for significant ways to make Fiesta more exciting.  Our 15th anniversary – Quinceañera – was quite a milestone so we really wanted to ramp thing up!  It was a coming of age of our festival!  Last November, the board decided that during our anniversary years, it would be beneficial to have co-presidents at the helm in order to share the work load.  Board member, Vanessa Vargas and I were voted in as co-Presidents which lent itself nicely to our theme – with Vanessa representing the younger generation – the daughter, and me representing the older generation – the mother.   The next month, over lunch with board member Lui Fernandez, the Fiesta theme was born which cemented our charge for Fiesta 2017 – “a celebration of generations!”  I remember getting goose bumps when Lui explained his ideas for the year and threw out the tagline!  Vanessa and I were so excited and ready to assume our roles as “Fiesta Mother and Daughter!”

Looking back on Fiesta 2017 and our path to Quince…I have to say…it was our best festival to date!  Every quadrant of Linn Park was filled and we had well over 100 tents in the park – a record for us.  Park Place, the road running on one side of the park, was also filled with the presence of the McDonalds Fiesta Tour which had rebranded and looked amazing!  McDonalds, our Title Sponsor, was also handing out slushie samples and I heard they ran out!  That’s a lot of people drinking slushies!!!

The weather was gorgeous all day long and I once again loved going from booth to booth to photograph friends – old and new –  and thank them for being a part of Fiesta’s Quince!  This year I had Vanessa with me for most of the visits and loved having that experience with her.  I also really can’t remember a time when we had as much pre-publicity for our event!  Vanessa and I were booked on every station and one radio station leading up to the event.  At one point during the festival, Vanessa and I had “dueling TV interviews” going on in the VIP section!  Vane was talking to CBS and I was talking to NBC.   We always had a great time with Claire Per-Lee of Style Advertising (Fiesta’s Advertising Agency) at each interview and she always photographed and videoed so we could have that memory.  She made each appearance so easy for us complete with talking points and props needed for the interview.  Claire, Vanessa and I were in such constant contact in the weeks leading up to Fiesta that it’s a little weird not getting several text messages a day from each other now!

Everywhere I looked at this year, sponsors and nonprofits were doing a great job of reaching patrons and drawing them in.  Swag from these booths was over the top!  There was just SO much activity all over the park that it was hard to catch it all.  That’s when I know we’ve hit a home run!   We always throw sponsor items from the stage, but this year we really ramped it up and the crowd loved it!  We’ve done this before but not to this level.

Throwing swag from the stage!

Volunteers…I can’t say enough about volunteers in general.  They can make or break your event. It you’ve been involved with events, you know this.  For Fiesta though, we’ve always been fortunate to have wonderful volunteers who have the spirit of the event at heart.  This year I wasn’t able to secure a volunteer coordinator for this festival so I took on the task myself.  And I was a little worried, I have to admit…especially with all the other responsibilities I had leading into Fiesta.  That is…until I got a message from a Spanish teacher Charity Jackson at Parker High School.  She said she had about 15-20 students who wanted to volunteer!  I was ecstatic!!!  And then she contacted me and said she had more students who wanted to volunteer!  By the time I had the volunteer schedule pulled together two days before the event, she had 35 students committed to working at Fiesta!  Ms. Jackson kept thanking me for having them at Fiesta but I told her several time that she really saved “me” by having her students there.  They were incredible…and so was she!

Spanish Teacher Charity Jackson with her students from Park High School – these kids were the best volunteers!

There are so many more stories about Fiesta 2017 that I could tell…but as I have done in the past, I think it’s best shown in photos.  If you came out to Fiesta, thank you…from the bottom of my heart for sharing our Quince with us!  If you weren’t able to be there…for whatever reason, I hope you enjoy a walk through our Quince in these photos!

 

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Fiesta Fridays! 2013

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

Such a perfect picture of Fiesta to me….the weather was beautiful and the families came out to enjoy a day in Birmingham’s Linn Park!

Fiesta 2013 took place on a beautiful and sunny day.  The weather was perfect!  When the sun is out there is always so much energy throughout the day…from the moment we arrive to set up until the last act finishes up on the mainstage…it was a great day for Fiesta!

The Birmingham Pledge station late in the afternoon – one side had the Birmingham pledge in English and the other in Spanish.

This was the year of the Birmingham Pledge.  The Pledge has become such a big part of the fabric of Birmingham in recent years.  Written in 1997 by Birmingham Attorney James E. Rotch, it is a statement of principles at the heart of a grassroots effort to eliminate racism and prejudice in the world.  It was first introduced publicly at the 1998 MLK Unity Breakfast in Birmingham.  Since then, over 150,000 people have signed the pledge online and it continues to be a source for unity through conferences and study circles.  The Fiesta board felt our event was the perfect place to have a display.  We contacted Wade Black, the Executive Director of the Birmingham Pledge Foundation and told him what we wanted to do and he was so excited about the visual we were creating!  I was happy that Wade was happy.  He was an educator and filmmaker and such a huge part of all things related to social justice in our city for so long.  Sadly he passed away in February 2014.  I am forever grateful that we included the pledge at Fiesta while Wade was still with us.

We had a two-sided large stand-up display created of the Birmingham Pledge.  One side was in English and the other in Spanish.  Home Depot helped with the managing of the display.  Fiesta patrons were invited to place a hand print on the display throughout the day.  It was such a beautiful site!  I stopped taking pictures long enough to put my hand print on the display.  Fiesta board member, Matt Ennis, and I happened to be at the display at the same time and my husband took my camera and captured us inking up and strategically placing our hands on the white canvas.  I was so happy to do this with another board member…  Later that day, I returned to the display to see it covered with hand prints and see my friend and photographer, Larry O. Gay, capture a Hispanic mother placing her baby’s footprint on the canvas. He always gets the best shots!

We are fortunate to always have the beautiful fountain at Linn Park on display at Fiesta.  We place the presenting and patron sponsors around the fountain and there is always a lot of foot traffic in this area.  This year the children seemed to really love the fountain and I managed to catch a few photos of them dangling their feet in the water.  There was such joy and excitement in their mood.  In fact, children and families always make Fiesta so perfect for me.  I love searching for families enjoying different aspects of the event and photographing them.  I’ve included a few of those photos in this post.

Another favorite photo from 2013 was of the elderly gentleman at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame booth playing his saxophone.  He was near the cultural village and I think I went by several times just to hear him.  His music added a different dimension to Fiesta with his jazz sounds in the midst of all the Latin sounds!  It all merged together quite well though and the crowd loved him!

On the Coca Cola Main Stage, we had Henry Santos performing as the second to last act.  This Dominican artist certainly had the ladies all a flutter during his performance!  He invited one young lady to the stage to dance with him and it turned out to be a young woman I knew from The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA)!  She was up front and center waiting for his performance when I captured a photo of her.  I was so happy that she got to go on stage with him during one of the songs.  She was clearly loving it and so was the crowd!  We’ve had several artists pull audience members on stage over the years.  The crowd loves it and it carries the family feel of the festival through the night.

More to come to please come back every other Friday through September 30, 2017, for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!

Had to include this photo of me with my mother and two of her neighbors…mom is always at Fiesta if she is able and love every minute of it!

Fiesta Fridays! 2012

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 2012 brought our festival back to downtown Birmingham.  After two years in Hoover, Alabama, we decided to move back to Birmingham and were welcomed with open arms by the City!  Of course, there was more to it than that…it was our 10th anniversary and the Board of Directors felt that we needed to celebrate this milestone where we began all those years ago.

Ballet Foklorico Corazon Azteca performs on the Coca Cola main stage.

In addition to the celebration, we worked on getting an updated logo created.  That logo was revealed in April of 2012 to a crowd of sponsors, supporters and friends of Fiesta.  Birmingham Mayor William Bell was on hand to witness the unveiling and also receive recognition for being a long time supporter of the event along with other long time sponsors.  That event set the stage for the excitement to follow for the event that year.

We settled back in to Linn Park without skipping a beat.  I remember it was a beautiful sunny day and my family was with me to help out as we got set up.  That is always the best for me…having my husband and kids around to be a part of Fiesta.  Setting up I did my “thing” – walked around taking pictures of all the booths and talking to everyone there.  It’s become my favorite thing to do at Fiesta every year.  I get to see everyone, greet them and take a photo before things get into full swing.  That year, my daughter, Anna Marie, was with me so it made it doubly special.


I remember seeing Church of the Highlands out in full force.  Volunteers began draping large flags of the Latin American countries around their tent and through the park around some of the trees.  I stopped to take pictures and thought how wonderful that was!  I mean, we have flags in the cultural village but this group was making sure that all the countries were represented with this action.  I loved it…

Another favorite memory is watching the Home Depot team get set up for the day.  Their team had a meeting right before gates opened and I caught our board member, Chris Miller, who worked with Home Depot at the time, getting everyone ready for the day.  I remember thinking how beautiful the “picture” was because of their orange vests and the fall colors of the trees.

 

The entertainment was also pretty stellar that day.  I thought Las Valenzuela – the trio of Mexican beauties who performed early that evening, were terrific!  They definitely got the attention of the men with their performance!  Of course, we made sure the women got equal time with the presence of Toby Love!  The energy at the main stage that night was incredible!

Everything just seemed brighter that day for some reason.  The energy that day was over the top and it’s hard to explain…when I look at my photos everything seemed brilliant.  I think part of this was the fact that we were back where we started.  Linn Park makes everyone feel like they are being hugged.  I can’t think of another way to explain it.  It’s grassy, green, there are trees, and it always feels like we are being caressed by the city.  It was great to be back in Birmingham that day…and we felt so welcomed…

More to come so please come back every other Friday through September 30, 2017, for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!

 

Fiesta Fridays! 2010

The Cultural Village entrance was used as the “official” Fiesta entrance for year 2010 at Hoover Met.

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 2010 brought quite a few changes to our festival.  After 2009, the board met in a strategic planning session and discussed moving the festival to another location.  Hoover, Alabama came to mind because of the city’s diverse population.  We were going into year 8 and the feeling was that if we were going to do something big, now was the time!

A huge crowd gathers in front of the main stage around mid-afternoon at Fiesta 2010.

The move took a little time to process and recently I found a series of emails from this time period and it threw me right back into this planning period.  We essentially had about 4-5 months to get Fiesta pulled together that year!  Once we met with Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos and discussed our desire to mover the festival to Hoover and got his support, the actual logistics of the event were handled like clockwork.  Erin Colbaugh, Hoover’s Event Coordinator, was a dream to work with and so things stayed on track in that area as our board, committees and Fiesta’s own event manager, Denise Koch, planned the festival details.

The location we selected was the Hoover Met.  We were able to use the grassy area outside the stadium for our Family Area and everything else was set up in the RV park.  One of the benefits of the RV park was the access to electricity for every tent that was set up.  There was also plenty of parking for Fiesta guests!  We were able to set up a perimeter around the park to enable us to charge admission to the event.  (All proceeds from ticket sales always go toward Fiesta scholarship.)

This was also the first year of our partnership with Home Depot!  I remember having phone conversations with a guy by the name of Chris Miller leading up to the event – very soft spoken, laid back.  Chris was organizing the Home Depot “army” for the event complete with orange aprons, children’s area crafts and a team of volunteers.  One of the most awesome sights that year was the sea of orange coming from the Family area!  It certainly complimented the Fiesta color scheme!  I got to meet Chris that day too and a few years later, we elected him to our Fiesta Board.  The rest, as they say…is history!

A father, mother and child enjoy the music at Fiesta 2010. This is my favorite photo from Fiesta 2010…really captures the Fiesta spirit of familia!!

Probably my favorite photo from 2010 is this one (above)…a family…in front of the Coca Cola Main stage listening to the music.  I don’t know…it just symbolized Fiesta for me that year…that no matter where Fiesta takes place, it’s about family and community.  The community came out in full force to Fiesta in our new location and we were happy with the change that year.

More to come so please come back every other Friday through September 30, 2017 for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!

Fiesta Fridays! 2009

Some of the Fiesta team all bundled up for a group photo – Fiesta 2009 – the coldest event in our then 7 year history! (Lto R – Stacy Kimbrough, Phil Sandoval, Mike Suco, Me, Jamika Kirk and Denise Lovoy Koch)

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

Back when the Fiesta board was getting the festival started, we were always told the best time of year to have an event was late September through mid-October.  We loved hearing this because having the event during Hispanic Heritage Month – which falls between September 15 and October 15 each year – was our plan.  We were fortunate to have wonderful weather for six years in a row…and then we got to 2009…and the tables turned on us.  It was SO COLD!!!

To me this was a true test of our event.  Would people come out to our event in the cold?  Better yet, would they come out and STAY?  The answer was yes and YES!  You’ve heard of “fair weather friends,” – well, that year we discovered we had “all weather friends!”  We had many new patrons come through, but when I look back on the photos from this particular year, I see so many friends who threw on coats, hats and gloves and came out to Fiesta despite the cold!

These are some of my favorite friend photos of that cold day…

This was also the year we highlighted some of the Fiesta scholarship winners by creating posters to display at the event.  We really wanted to put a face on scholarships for Fiesta patrons.  The posters contained the recipient’s photo and name, along with their major and a sentence or two about what it meant to win the Fiesta scholarship.  While most people who attend our event know they are coming to a Hispanic cultural festival, many don’t know about the reason Fiesta was created in the first place – to award scholarships to deserving Hispanic students who have a need in our community.  The money is raised each year through the event sponsorships, donations and the admission tickets.

In 2008, we awarded $5K each to Samford University, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Miles College to create a Fiesta scholarship at each school.  That was the largest award we had ever made in one year due to the success of Fiesta the previous years.    I remember how excited the board members were to do this and we really felt as though Fiesta had arrived and reached the potential we had all hoped for in the early years.  The students featured on the posters were the ones who received the 2008 awards.  Many participated in Fiesta in some way and that made the awards even more special to us.

 

 

More to come so please come back every other Friday through September 30, 2017, for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!

 

 

Fiesta Fridays! 2008

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

Gabriela Vergara and DJ Ivan Correa get ready to dance on the Coca Cola Main Stage at Fiesta 2008.

Fiesta 2008 was a beautiful sunny day, made all the more sweet by our Coca Cola Main Stage hostess, Gabriela Vergara!

Elisa Gonzalez-Rubio, Fiesta board member and employee of Coca Cola, was heavily involved with the main stage acts for a number of years.  She had a contact with Gabriela Vergara and brought her to Fiesta in 2006 and was able to work it out to have her at Fiesta again in 2008.  Gabriella was a former  Miss Venezuela and at the time, a telenovela actress and star of the Hispanic version of “Desperate Housewives.”  I remember seeing her that morning as we prepared to open the event and thinking how gorgeous she was…and her personality and energy was over the top!

Gabriela rocking her homemade Coca Cola t-shirt! She made it herself just minutes before appearing at Fiesta!

She was staying at the Tutwiler hotel and our board member, Mike Suco – also with Coca Cola – wanted her to wear a Coca Cola t-shirt that day while she was on the main stage.  Mike said she took that t-shirt, asked for a pair of scissors and turned that t-shirt into a fashion statement!  I’m sure if we had taken a bunch more Coke t-shirts and started cutting away like Gabriela did with hers, we would have been able to sell them to the crowd that day!

Gabriela did not stay anchored to the Main Stage that day…she was out in the crowd, getting people to dance, posing for photographs and just charming everyone who came in contact with her that day!  She was front and center when Storyteller, Antonio Sacre did one of his performances in front of the stage, encouraging others to join her.  She even got into the wrestling ring and got the crowd going before the matches that day.  I love the photos of her interviewing a wrestler flat on his back in the ring!  I mean…who would have thought to do that?  One of my favorite memories is of her dancing with my friend and DJ, Ivan Correa on stage during the last act of the night.  They sure looked great dancing together!!!  We’ve had the great fortune to have Gabriella at Fiesta twice in our 15 years…and we would love to have her come back again one day…what do you say, Gabriella?!!!

One of my most favorite photos of any Fiesta! I love the colors and the movement in this photo of a Costa Rican dance group at Fiesta 2008.

Early in the day we typically like to showcase dance groups and many other cultural artists.  This particular year, we had a dance group from Costa Rica that performed.  My memory is a little foggy on how they came to us, but the fact is, they did and they performed in front of the main stage and they were fabulous!!!  I love watching traditional dancing and this group did not disappoint.  Plus, their outfits were so colorful and flowy.  Catching dresses in motion is a favorite of mine and I had plenty opportunity to do this during their performance.  These are some of my most favorite photos of all the Fiesta events to date.  Someday I’m going to figure out who they were/are.  I’m convinced that I have information about them in all my archived Fiesta emails!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More to come so please come back every other Friday through September 30, 2017 for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!

 

Fiesta Fridays! 2007

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

The Blue Demon Luchador makes his first appearance at Fiesta in 2007!

Fiesta 2007 brought several new additions to the event.  It was our 5th anniversary so everyone involved was so excited that we had made it this far!  It also turned out to be one of our biggest years ever with over 20K people attending!  I was board president that year and the board members and volunteers seemed to be settling into a great rhythm with the planning and engaging both the English and Spanish-speaking communities.  This was also the year we went out on a “so-called” limb and decided the time was right for wrestling!!!

Our presenting sponsor – Coca Cola – had just launched a new energy drink called Full Throttle Blue Demon and had acquired Mexican luchador (wrestler) Blue Demon, Jr. to help with promotions in Mexico. The board was having a meeting several months before our 2007 Fiesta event when we started discussing new aspects of our event.   Lucha Libre was mentioned and board member, Mike Suco (with Coca Cola) brought up Blue Demon.  Things took off quickly from there and before you knew it, we had Blue Demon making a weekend appearance in Alabama and we had also partnered with Wrestle Birmingham to bring a ring and local wrestlers to Fiesta!  The ring was set up right next to the Coca Cola Main Stage and the crowd that gathered was incredible!  I remember standing on the main stage and getting some pretty awesome photos of the wrestling matches!  The crowd that gathered that year was incredible!

Blue Demon made a return appearance in 2008 to huge crowds.  He was definitely popular!  The current Fiesta board is looking at bringing wrestling or Lucha Libre, back to Fiesta for our 15th anniversary celebration.  Fingers crossed it works out!  I would love to see all that excitement once again at our event!

Antonio Sacre, storyteller, performer and author, makes his first appearance at Fiesta in 2007 in the Storytelling Village.

Fiesta also created a new village in 2007 – the Storytelling Village.  We were lucky enough to find Antonio Sacre, a storyteller, performer and author of Irish-Cuban descent to highlight the village.  And let me tell you, he not only highlighted the Storytelling Village…he ended up highlighting the entire festival!!!  He didn’t just stay in one part of Linn Park that day!  He was all over the place, finding opportunities to tell stories in the cultural village, on the main stage and just lend his all around good nature and great stories to the delight of the many guests that day at Fiesta!  No group was too small or too large for Antonio!

The Storytelling Village itself was such a great set up…we had beanbag chairs for kids to relax in and hear stories read to them by UAB college students.  The Birmingham Public Library also partnered with us to make this village come alive.  Bilingual books were donated so kids got to read, hear the books read, and then go home with one to enjoy!  Families flocked to the new village that year and seemed to really enjoy the peace and quiet offered there…away from the activity of the other areas of Fiesta but close enough to still see what was going on.

Antonio Sacre made a return visit to Fiesta in 2008 and this time he came for the entire weekend.  We arranged for him to visit several schools on Friday and he became quite the ambassador for Fiesta that year!  I know we saw an increase in family attendance from the schools visited.  I was fortunate enough to chauffeur him around that day.  And on Friday night we had a reception at the Birmingham Public Library where we heard from Antonio,  had a book signing and we also hosted several Fiesta scholarship winners.  Our local CBS news affiliate even came out to cover the event!

I have one more great memory of Antonio and the 2008 year and it is unrelated to the Fiesta event…  There was a Leonardo DaVinci exhibit at the Birmingham Museum of Art that fall.  The BMA had been a partner with Fiesta for many years so I had some tickets to the exhibit.  We had some time before the first school visit and I asked Antonio if he wanted to go.  He said “sure!”  It turned out to be such a fun few hours walking around the museum with him and listening to his thoughts on the DaVinci’s drawings and other artifacts.  It was such a treat for me to hear Antonio’s impressions through an artists’ mind.

More to come so please come back every Friday through September 30, 2017 for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!