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 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!
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!