Category Archives: Hoover

Fiesta Fridays! 2011

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

This is probably my favorite photo from Fiesta 2011…this little girl was enjoying the Family village face painting and Home Depot activities!

Fiesta 2011 was one for the record books!  When I think back on this particular year, there was so much going on and also a bit of turmoil.  Turmoil…that’s not a word you would normally associate with a festival, but in this particular year, we had a bit of that with the creation of the state’s anti-illegal immigration bill called HB 56.

This law went into effect the week of Fiesta, so naturally the board and committee members were concerned.  We didn’t want trouble for our event nor did we want people to target us for any negative reason.  I mean, we are a cultural festival…we don’t have a political agenda.  We’ve made that clear from day one of our event.  But the reality is when you have a bill such as this and a Hispanic event about to take place, the natural inclination was to be targeted by the press to get a comment or two about the situation.  Usually an event works hard to get the media to cove them because you never know if a breaking new story will divert their attention. Well, in this case we didn’t have to hustle a bit!  All the networks came out and I remember vividly having 3 to 4 microphones pushed in my face asking me questions about the bill and how we felt about it.  I had my talking points down beforehand and stuck to those during the interviews.  To this day, I can’t believe I was able to get through all those questions but the press was more than kind with their coverage of Fiesta that year.  We are forever grateful for that!

In fact, the greater community came out in droves to support us.  We had a lot of first time patrons because they disagreed with the new law and wanted to show support in some way.  They figured attending a Hispanic event was a good way to show solidarity.  I had many people tell me this that day.  It was so heartwarming.  Keep in mind, Fiesta was created to showcase ALL Hispanic countries…not just Mexico.  So this really fit into the education component of our mission.  Yes, the majority of attendees are generally Mexican and the assumption is always that they are undocumented.  But Fiesta has always been proud of the diversity in not only attendance, but also participants of the event.

We called it the largest Mexican pizza in the world! Thanks go out to the city of Hoover and our partnership with Little Caesars Pizza for making this possible!

Fiesta 2011 had so much to offer that year.  Aside from the cultural, nonprofit and family villages, we were able to create a partnership with Little Caesar’s Pizza to create what we called the “world’s largest Mexican pizza.”  The City of Hoover has a giant oven that they have used at evens to bake a gigantic apple pie.  We were able to get permission to use that oven and the pizza was created!!!  It was amazing to see the crane bring the oven in and pull the huge pan out for the toppings to be added.  I loved watching the guy crawl out on what looked like a diving board to test and see if the pizza the “done.”  People gathered to watch and wait patiently to sample this savory pizza!

On a personal note, my daughter Emily, completed her Girl Scout Gold Award project that year at Fiesta.  She brought friends together to create a skit in English and Spanish on recycling and presented it over the afternoon for groups of families.  She also handed out water bottles with information on how to recycle to children in the Family Village.  The bottles were labeled “Message in a bottle/Mensaje en una botella.”  In addition, she contacted Recycle Alabama to bring recycling bins to Fiesta for the first time ever.  All in all, it was a very successful project and it was great to see the Family Village so active with Emily and her friends.  This was a great compliment to the Home Depot army that was present once again that year!

We had a challenge with our musical acts that year too.  As you can probably imagine, several of the music acts we had booked cancelled at the last minute due to the political climate in the state.  Who could blame them…but that’s not exactly the news you want to hear right before the festival opens!!!  At any rate, we were able to draw from many local acts to fill the gaps.  We also had the talents of DJ Crème from New York that year who was fantastic and really stepped up with the situation facing us.  The final act of the night was contacted around one o’clock that day and agreed to drive all the way from Nashville to perform for us.  They were fabulous and teamed up with DJ Crème to really cap off Fiesta 2011.

I think this was the year I realized just how many friends Fiesta has…I mean, it would have been easy to abandon our little festival due to the politics of the day.  But we had so much support surrounding us that day.  I know many memories were created that day.  For me, this was probably the most memorable since the first Fiesta.  We came through turmoil and were made better because of it all.

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

 

 

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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!

A Little Turkish Culture

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The “official” flyer for the Turkish Food Fest. This is the 3rd year for the event.

Three years ago I found out about the Istanbul Cultural Center in Hoover.  I was participating in the FBI Citizens Academy that fall and I met fellow classmate, Umut Gunebir, Executive Director of the Center. The following year, Umut invited me to visit the center to learn more about Turkish culture and events they conduct there.    So, of course, I liked their Facebook page so I could stay current with the center’s activities.

Last year, I heard the Turkish Food Festival was being planned and I was really looking forward to attending.  Unfortunately, the date turned out to be the same as my daughter’s wedding so THAT didn’t happen!  This year, no wedding, so I got an early start and headed over to the Center at 10:45 a.m. to check things out.

The crowds gathered early for the festival!

The crowds gathered early for the festival!

There was already quite a crowd when I arrived.  The smell of food was permeating the area and I was pretty hungry since I had skipped breakfast.  Turkish music was playing over loud speakers.  I wasn’t sure if I should go ahead and get food tickets right then or make my way around to see everything and take photos.  I chose the latter and landed at the vendor tables and started clicking away.  All the pretty hand painted bowls  pulled me in and every single one was unique!  Achmed, the vendor did not speak much English so the young lady at the next booth did some interpreting for us.  I had all kinds of questions about the ceramics and he was pleased to share details about how the pieces were created and how time-consuming the process was for the artists – from kiln to painting to kiln again.  I told him I would be back before I left to buy some of the items and he smiled and said he would give me a “good deal.”

Some of the beautiful hand painted Turkish ceramics.

Some of the beautiful hand painted Turkish ceramics.

Next I walked around checking out all the food.  It was a food festival after all!  Each table had signs describing the food being sold which was a nice touch.  The first food items included things like yaprak sarmasi (stuffed grape leaves) and kisir (Turkish tabooli).  Next came the big-ticket items  – gyros and kabobs – served in pita bread with lettuce and tomatoes on top of rice.  Along the last line of booths you could find Turkish coffee or tea to go with some scrumptious dessert items.  Things like baklava, cezerye – a carrot and coconut delicacy, elmali kurabiye (apple cookie rolls with powdered sugar), rice pudding and Turkish cinnamon cookies.  I think they need to create a sampler platter for next year!

Turkish cinnamon cookie and cezerye (with the flag pick).

Turkish cinnamon cookie and cezerye (with the flag pick).

One of the longest lines for food was at the gozleme (Turkish flatbread and pastry) table.  A young man and his mother were hard at work making this tasty and traditional dish.  When I read there was feta in it, that’s all I had to hear!  Like a woman said behind me…”they had me at feta!”  I had to agree!  (Here is a recipe I found online for gozleme.)

One of the longest lines was for the gozleme - a traditional Turkish flatbread and pastry made with feta cheese. Yum!

One of the longest lines was for the gozleme – a traditional Turkish flatbread and pastry made with feta cheese. Yum!

As I waited for my gozleme to finish cooking on gas-fired sac griddle, I told the young man that his mother was the hardest working person at the festival.  He translated for me and she gave me a smile.  From the time I arrived, she was rolling the dough with the “oklava” – a very long and thin wooden rolling-pin.  As she finished rolling out each dough piece, she would hand it off to her son who would paint it with butter and add a feta and Turkish white cheese mixture before sealing it to cook.  I found out that the son was attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and majoring in Physics.  His mother had just arrived in the US and was staying with him for several months which clearly made him happy.  I loved how seamlessly they worked together making the gozleme.  It was well worth the wait and my last 3 food tickets.  Plus, I really enjoyed the conversation.

One of the beautiful henna tattoos I saw at the festival.

One of the beautiful henna tattoos I saw at the festival.

Activities for kids included inflatables and face painting and plenty of kids took advantage of this.  I was very interested in the henna tattoos.  I didn’t have time to get one myself but I was able to photograph a few people who did.  I asked the young woman who was in charge of the henna tattoos what purpose they served and she explained they are a way to adorn the body for special celebrations, just like wearing jewelry.  She had several designs to choose from at her table.  On my list of things to do one day – get a henna tattoo!  They are so beautiful!

By the time I left two hours later, the festival was packed!  The lines were long every where you looked and it pleased me to see this for the organizers.  A young man by the name of Huseyin saw me taking photographs shortly after I arrived and introduced himself saying he was the Social Media Director for the festival.  He asked how I found out about the event and I told him through Facebook.  The festival continued on Sunday and from the pictures people were posting, it was another packed house!  Huseyin mentioned they may be looking for a bigger venue next year because of the growth they are experiencing.  Food and cultural festivals definitely bring in a crowd!

Crowds of people enjoy delicious Turkish food at the 3rd annual Turkish Food Fest!

Crowds of people enjoy delicious Turkish food at the 3rd annual Turkish Food Fest!

Oh…and as I promised Achmed, I returned to his vendor booth and bought several of the Turkish ceramic bowls.  And as he promised me…he gave me a good deal!

Here are a few more photos from the event…

 

A Trip to At Home…

A new store called At Home opened near my house recently.  I had no idea what this store was about but curiosity was piqued after my daughter went by and loved it and then my mother said she went by and bought a few things.

So today, after spending several hours with my daughter and our wedding planners (my daughter is getting married in April next year – more on that in a later post), we decided to check it out together.  There are still a number of empty spaces in the store  – some shelves are empty and waiting to be filled – but their Christmas items are out in full force and everything is color coordinated and presented by theme.

Since we were in wedding mode, we found a number of items in burlap in the Christmas section that will work nicely for my daughter’s wedding.  We made a note of those items and continued our exploration.  Then suddenly…I spotted an entire shelf unit of Mexican pottery!  YES!!!  Score!!!  So beautiful!!!!  And now I must have them…

IMG_7591These pottery items are rather large but I can see them gracing my deck next spring with lovely plants.  I can also see them on my front doorstep on either side of my front door.  So many possibilities…  Of course, this store now has my full attention since they carry Mexican pottery.  I’m just hoping they will continue to get a nice selection and a variety as the seasons change.  Time will tell, and I’ll be checking on them!

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IMG_7595Of course, when I’m with my daughter (or any of my kids), we have a great time cutting up and today was no exception.  Down one aisle, we spotted some New York storage boxes that looked like suitcases.  This immediately bought the musical “Singing in the Rain” to our minds and the song “Broadway Melody” where Gene Kelly struts across a stage swinging his suitcases and singing “gotta dance!”   My daughter decided to recreate the scene and of course, I got a photo of it!  Oh…and I think I forgot to mention that it’s not unusual for me and my girls  to break into song at the drop of a hat.  It gets especially crazy when I’m with my sisters!  I love that this has carried over to my kids!

On our way out of the store, we passed the colorful Christmas trees again.  I remember our family having an aluminum Christmas tree when I was growing up in Puerto Rico.  My mother would put it on the marble coffee table and then place a four color wheel light next to it.  Well, now you can apparently get these trees in multiple colors!  My daughter found one in purple, her favorite color, and of course now she wants one.  The trick will be to convince her future husband that this is the tree for them!  This should be interesting…

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Did I mention it was a fun day??!!!