Category Archives: Linn Park

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! 2016

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

For Fiesta 2016 there was a renewed focus on our Cultural Village and what makes it the “Corazon” of our event each year.  We depend on the kindness of the Hispanic community when it comes to pulling this village together.  It is because these community members want to share a bit about their countries of origin that the village is always such a wonderful place.

This year we decided to have a competition to encourage participants to take it up a notch or two.  Word got out quickly when this was announced on social media and we had quite a turnout.  Not to mention, the booths were incredible!  Our cultural village chair and board member, Lui Fernandez, always has something special in mind as he creates the village atmosphere.  This year, he really wanted to encourage the community to sign up early for our 15th anniversary celebration and he decorated a booth with photos from all the previous Fiestas.  It was such a great way, in my opinion, to personalize the village even more!

The winner of the competition was chosen by three anonymous judges who went through the village throughout the day to observe and make notes.  At the end of the day, Mexico won the competition and a $500 prize!  Interestingly, the Mexico booth also has photos displayed all over the tent of past Fiestas!  Great minds…as they say!

Fiesta 2016 was also warmer than the year before!  If you read my post from last week you’ll remember that it was a cold and drizzly day.  This year made up for it with blue skies and warm weather.  It was beautiful…  And because of this, I think that’s why I remember people dancing so much!  We decided to use the gazebo in Linn Park as a Dance Station this yea and got DJ Ivan Correa to host music there.  He is always so wonderful and engaging with people.  He gave dance lessons and would also draw pictures of people who took a quick lesson from him.  Each time I went by there was always a steady stream of people.

Last but certainly not least, we had the McDonalds Fiesta Tour return for a third year thanks to our Title Sponsor, McDonalds!  This year, the tour went through a bit of a makeover with updated colors, design and also some new items on display.

Here are a few more photos from that day – some for how colorful they are and others because they are of family and friends who make Fiesta so much fun because they are there…

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Fiesta Fridays series as much as I’ve enjoyed going through my photos and telling them.  If you are in Birmingham on Saturday, September 30, 2017, I hope to see you at Fiesta for our 15th anniversary…and if you are, SMILE!  I’ll have my camera and you may just end up in my Fiesta photo collection!

Fiesta Fridays! 2015

Rain ponchos were seen all around Fiesta 2015 for several hours but thankfully no heavy downpours!

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 2015 was a cold and rainy one…and if I were superstitious, I would have said all this happened because it was our 13th year!  However, even with the cold and steady drizzle, Fiesta was a success because of the people who threw on rain ponchos and came out to enjoy the day with family and friends.  I have many great memories of Fiesta 2015 in the rainy weather which I shared in my blog post that year called “Fiesta 2015 Rain or Shine!”

Mosaico Flamenco performs at Fiesta 2015 on the Main Stage.

This year we had a group called Mosaico Flamenco perform on the main stage.  I always enjoy watching and photographing dance groups and this group was incredible!  I love the swirling of the costumes and the angles of the bodies captured in mid-movement.  This dance group was really beautiful and I ended up staying to watch their entire performance.  Usually, I will photograph for a few moments and then move on to capture something else going on at Fiesta.  There is always so much to catch and experience!  This time though, I caught a rather intimate moment the group had right before taking stage too…they huddled together by the stage and said a prayer.  Like I said…it was such a sweet and intimate moment.  I watched for a few second and wasn’t sure if i would photograph or not but I wanted to remember it so took just two photos.  The group also had their own live music to dance to and that added quite a nice element to the performance.

Fiesta also tried something new with food that year by creating a separate ticketed area we called “Cocina Latina.”  A limited number of Latino food vendors participated and provided samples of their best dishes.  Attendees loved this and probably got to sample dishes they wouldn’t have ordinarily tried!  There was also the opportunity to sample Hornitos tequila too which was definitely a hit!

Some of the food samples at Cocina Latina at Fiesta 2015!

Our artists were also crowd pleasing that year which was proven when people braved the cold and wet weather and hung with us until the soggy end!  In fairness, the drizzle had stopped by the last two acts but i just remember my feet being so cold from walking through the wet grass all day – AND…I didn’t have on the best shoes that day.  Oh well…live and learn…

Toby Love sings to the crowd at Fiesta 2015!

We had a return visit from Toby Love, sporting a light…almost white colored suit, which made his presence even more stark when the fog machine started rolling out the fog!  It made for some great photos during his performance including one I took from the back of the stage of Toby Love center stage and singing directly to the crowd.  It’s one of my favs!!!

Members of the Fiesta board pose with Headliner – Bobby Pulido – before he takes the stage! (L-R Chris Miller, me, Vanessa Vargas Bobby Pulido, Matt Ennis, Cristina Almanza and Carlos Aleman.

Another favorite photo is one taken of several members of the Fiesta board with the last headliner – Bobby Pulido.  He is such a personable guy and was great with the crowd.  I got quite a few photos of him performing with his band but one that we’ve used for many Fiesta promotions and advertisements is of him playing his guitar right in front of the audience.  I love crowd shots and this one was perfect from my vantage point…the lighting from the stage hit the people in the front just right and so I began snapping away.

Come back next Friday for my last post in this Fiesta Friday series and read more about Fiesta 2016!

Oh…one last photo that I love from Fiesta 2015…me with board members, Vanessa Vargas and Cristina Almanza!  #selfie!

Selfie with board members Vanessa and Cristina as we began the day! My hair was still dry at this point!

 

 

Fiesta Fridays! 2014

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

Title Sponsor McDonalds brought the Fiesta Tour to Linn Park in 2014!

Fiesta 2014 brought us a series of “firsts” to our event.  One of the biggest was getting our “first” Title Sponsor.  Our top-level of sponsorship had always been “Presenting” and we had toyed with the idea of having a Title Sponsor.  The conversation ignited when Santiago Negre, Hispanic owner of numerous area McDonalds arrived in town.  He is the type of person who gets involved in the community and found Fiesta a way to do just that.  McDonalds had always been a Presenting Sponsor but this was the year we asked and he said “yes” to Title Sponsorship!

Jeh Jeh Pruitt of WBRC poses with Ronald McDonald, Santiago Negre, Fiesta President, Matt Ennis and Russell Negre before on air interview.

We were thrilled, to say the least!  And in addition to taking the Title Sponsorship, Santiago also arranged to have the Fiesta Tour come to Birmingham.  This was a tremendous coup for us as this tour typically only presents in the largest markets like Chicago, Los Angeles, and the like.  The Fiesta tour – appropriately named (in our humble opinion) – is like a Latin Grammy Experience!  It’s a 50 foot trailer exhibit with a walk through display of unique artifacts and memorabilia loaned by Latin musicians.  You get to see items belonging to such artists as Jennifer Lopez, Celia Cruz, Jose Feliciano and Marc Anthony.  It also features a live DJ, music kiosk and kiddie area with a photo center.  The Fiesta tour was set up right at the entrance so attendees bought their ticket to the festival and could walk directly through the exhibit.  It was such an exciting addition to Fiesta that year!

Another “first” was having a parade of flags, along with the flag ceremony and the Pledge of Allegiance at the event and this was thanks to the Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama.  Marisela Mendez is a powerhouse of a woman (now retired) who was a huge force in engaging Hispanic girls and their families into scouting in our state.  She arranged to have girl scouts from around the region attend Fiesta and dress in traditional costumes to carry the flags of Latino countries.  She also had a group experienced in the presentation of the colors on hand, and in uniform to lead the event in the Pledge of Allegiance from the main stage.  It was such a beautiful and colorful sight that year!  The girls were gorgeous in their dresses and throughout the day I would see them around the park with their families enjoying the day.

Photo of all the Hispanic Girl Scouts who participated in the 2014 Fiesta event in costume and Girl Scout uniforms.

At one point, I was next to the Coca Cola Main Stage with my daughter, Anna Marie, when we saw one of the girls twirling to the music.  Her pink dress was floating as she twirled and she was clearly in her own little world with the music.  Anna Marie and I began taking pictures of her when one of her friends saw us and decided to twirl with her.  It was such a sweet moment and I’m so glad we caught it.

This was also the year we were able to grant a wish to a young Hispanic girl who was seriously ill and in Children’s Hospital of Alabama.  She wanted to meet her favorite musical artist – El Dasa – and we arranged to make that happen with the help of Amado Santos, Patient Relations and Language Services Director.  El Dasa was so gracious too.  Jasmine – the young girl – was taken by wheelchair to his personal tour bus and along with her parents and brother, were able to meet him and have a short visit.  The sweetest moment came when Jazmine gave him a drawing she made.  It was of a pair of cowboy boots and a hat,  similar to what he wears for his performances.  He was so sweet to her, asking her about the drawing and other things that she enjoyed.  He was truly interested in her and wanted to make this a good experience…that was clear.  A local news station came out to cover the meeting and at the end, El Dasa posed for pictures with the family and the drawing before heading to the stage for his performance.  I enjoyed being a “fly on the wall,” as they say and being able to witness this special meeting.

 

More to come so please come back next Friday to hear about Fiesta 2015!

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! 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!