Category Archives: Festival

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!

Birmingham’s Dia de los Muertos 2016

A look at the skyline of Bare Hands Inc.'s Dia de los Muertos festival in its new venue - Cahaba Brewery this year.

A look at the skyline of Bare Hands Inc.’s Dia de los Muertos festival in its new venue – Cahaba Brewery this year. Murals of Spider Martin and Guillermo Castro are displayed at the start of the altar displays.

I’ve said this before – aside from my beloved Fiesta, Bare Hands Inc.’s Dia de los Muertos festival is one of my favorites of the year.  Both just celebrated year 14 and both will celebrate their 15th – or Quinceanera – next year.  For a festival to make it that long is impressive and this year was even more so for DOTD Alabama.

Early in the year, I heard the festival had been cancelled.  They had lost their long time location due to some changes in the geographic region and had also gone through some leadership changes with the retirement of long time ED Wendy Jarvis and installation of new ED, Robert Hernandez.  But like any organization with volunteers who have a passion for what they do – they persevered and several months into 2016, they decided the show would go on (as they say) and partnered with Cahaba Brewery to move the festival to Avondale.

Roll Call of the dead is a time honored tradition at the festival - as names are called, if family/friends are in attendance, they call out "present" in the audience...

Roll Call of the dead is a time honored tradition at the festival – as names are called, if family/friends are in attendance, they call out “present” in the audience…

And what a move!  The festival drew over 6,000 people this year!  As I was leaving at 8:30 I ran into Robert and Festival Director-Jennifer Gowers and their faces said it all… Jennifer grabbed me and said “where are all these people coming from?!”  We looked at the entrance and people were still streaming in and the festival opened at 4 p.m.  After a group hug, we talked about the incredible turnout and all the hard work it took to pull the event together in a shorter period of time.  Incredible is the only word I could think of at that moment.  Labor of love is the phrase I choose now.

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Day of the Dead is not your ordinary festival, after all.  It is a way for people to honor and celebrate the memory of loved ones who have left us.  The altar installations and tributes are always very moving and I find myself lingering in front of several because of the unique ways in which people are honored and remembered.  I met a young woman from Mexico who described in detail the altar that she and her family pulled together to honor her family.  Every single item on that altar had a unique significance and as she pointed them out to me, along with the stories, I felt myself tearing up.  What a tribute!  What  beautiful stories…and I was so appreciate that she was sharing these with me.  But then again, that is what this festival is all about…sharing your family stories, sharing the stories of your friends and others you love and cherish so that they are always remembered…

A portion of the altar that had so many interesting details recounted to me by a family member.  Very traditional...

A portion of the altar that had so many interesting details recounted to me by a family member. Very traditional…

That’s what Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos means…that’s what Robert, Jennifer and the rest of the board members and volunteers accomplished this past November 2nd.  Viva la Vida!!!

Artist Julianna Jackson poses with her incredible headpiece in the DOD Market.  The creations at her booth were exquisite!

Artist Julianna Jackson poses with her incredible headpiece in the DOD Market. The creations at her booth were exquisite!

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Dia de los Muertos 2015…a look back…

A little girl admires the sugar skull masks at Dia de los Muertos Birmingham Festival 2015

A little girl admires the sugar skull masks at Dia de los Muertos Birmingham Festival 2015

Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos is tomorrow and Birmingham has one of the best celebrations around!  This is a story I did for Alabama News Center last year about the festival.  I look forward to sharing more photos and stories from DOD 2016 later this week!  (By the way…I’m about to #bloglikecrazy for the month of November as a blogging challenge through See Jane Write!  Should be fun!)

Birmingham’s annual Day of the Dead Festival, organized by the nonprofit Bare Hands Inc., was Monday, Nov. 2 in downtown. This was the 13th year for the festival that celebrates the lives of departed loved ones with lively celebrations, food, music, flowers, dancing and stories. The event has grown in popularity in recent years and continues to expand, drawing a diverse crowd.

Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a Mexican tradition that celebrates life rather than mourning death. The day coincides with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2). Many people describe this event as a colorful, vibrant and joyful commemoration rather than something somber. Altars feature photos, food or drink and hobbies of lost loved ones. Many Hispanic members of the community have embraced this event and participate as a remembrance of their native country.

Mural by artist Tim Kerr honored the Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights era.  Dia de los Muertos Birmingham 2015

Mural by artist Tim Kerr honored the Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights era. Dia de los Muertos Birmingham 2015

This year, the festival invited visual artist Tim Kerr from Austin, Texas, to create the central memorial. He chose a mural to honor departed foot soldiers of the civil rights movement. It was featured next to the altar honoring photographer Spider Martin. This annual altar is created by his daughter, Tracy Martin – a founder of the festival – and always draws a crowd.

While the festival honors the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead, it incorporates other elements that make it unique. To many Alabamians, it brings to mind Decoration Day in the South. It also gives a New Orleans feel with the jazz funeral parade and procession that takes place around the event. “Dressing up” is a mainstay at the festival. A parade honoring celebrated Mexican artist Frida Kahlo marched along with the jazz band and paraders performed on the main stage.

A young girl has her face painted as sugar skull at the festival.  This is one of the most popular things to do at Dia de los Muertos.

A young girl has her face painted as sugar skull at the festival. This is one of the most popular things to do at Dia de los Muertos.

The children’s area provided families with sugar skull or “calavera” crafts, activities and a puppet show. Speaking of sugar skulls, having one’s face painted at the festival is popular and not limited to children. The line to have faces painted was long but the results were praised. The public altar area provided a place for attendees to bring photos and personal remembrances or “ofrendas” and honor a departed loved one. One young woman, born and raised in Alabama, commented that she didn’t know much about Day of the Dead until recently when a friend told her about it. She was looking for a way to pay tribute to her father, who recently passed away, and she was excited to take part in this year’s event.

“I want to remember the good times and not dwell on my dad’s death,” she said. “I think this is why events like this are so meaningful and powerful to people like me.”  She held a picture of her father holding her as a baby, and brought his favorite fruit, an apple, to include in the public altar area. Through tears, she remarked how happy she was to be a part of the event.

A couple dresses out in full sugar skull makeup and colorful clothing for Dia de los Muertos Birmingham 2015.

A couple dresses out in full sugar skull makeup and colorful clothing for Dia de los Muertos Birmingham 2015.

One of the most heartfelt moments at the festival is the annual roll call. People submit names of deceased loved ones to be called out from the main stage. As names are called, family and friends in the audience hold up pictures of their loved ones.

Robert Hernandez, a festival volunteer, created an altar to honor his family as well as Selena, who was known as the Queen of Tejano music before her murder in 1995. His creation of a large white flower was a central feature of his altar highlighted with music from the late artist. Hernandez met someone attending the festival who knows Selena’s family. The friend took pictures and promised to pass them along to her family.

Altar by Robert Hernandez dedicated to Tejana Musician Selena was a popular stop at Dia de los Muertos Birmigham 2015.

Altar by Robert Hernandez dedicated to Tejana Musician Selena was a popular stop at Dia de los Muertos Birmigham 2015.

Another volunteer noted that Day of the Dead in Birmingham is not a secret anymore.  “More and more people are discovering the beauty of this holiday and want to be here,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful and uplifting night.”

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