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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!

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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! 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! 2003 to 2006

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, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage is 15 years old this year!  I’ve been spending a lot of time going through old files and photos and reliving the early years of this festival.  Getting a festival like this started was a lot of work and yet those of us who were there at the beginning really didn’t know how big this event would become – or how long it would last!  These photos and document revealed so much history and so many people involved for all these years.  As I was reliving moment through photos, I was also recalling stories and my personal thoughts.  So as we get closer to our 15th anniversary this year, I decided to begin posting a photo each Friday with a little story – I’m calling these “Fiesta Friday” photos on Facebook and Instagram.  It occurred to me though that there is more to tell about some of these photos and the people involved and the best way to do this is on my blog.

So this post will be about the photos I’ve already posted from 2003 to 2006.  There are so many photos to choose from too!  I started taking the photos at Fiesta the first year never imagining that I would become the official “unofficial” photographer of the event.  I was using film and switched to digital a few years later but these are the photos that really stick out to me of the thousands that I’ve taken.

Fiesta 2003 – My friends Lui Fernandez and Jasmine Reyes dance next to the Main Stage while Susan Daywood, Rei Ramos and Hernan Prado watch and enjoy the music!

2003 – Fiesta’s first year…  I was at the main stage – the Coca Cola main stage and found a group of friends from the Hispanic Business Council (HBC) on the side of the stage dancing and having a great time.  It was getting close to the final acts and everyone was so happy about the success of our first ever event!  We had expected about 2,000 people to come through but when the numbers were finally counted, we had about 7,000 attendees our very first year!  Overwhelming would be an appropriate word to describe our feelings that day.  I snapped this photo of Jasmine Reyes dancing with a young man.  Behind her are Susan Daywood with the City of Birmingham and a member of the HBC, Rei Ramos with the HBC and Hernan Prado, also with the HBC.  What I didn’t realize at the time is that the young man Jasmine was dancing with would become a huge part of Fiesta.  Luis “Lui” Fernandez is a current board member and has been instrumental in creating the “heart” of Fiesta – the Cultural Village.  He took it from a few posters to a group of community members excited about portraying their respective countries and sharing this information with Fiesta guests each year.  When he is in charge of something, I never worry about how it will turn out because Lui has a special talent in creating something to remember!

Fiesta 2003 – Salsa dancers on the main stage

2004 -Fiesta’s second year – This photo was taken from the Coca Cola Main Stage and is of two dancers.  They drew quite the crowd early in the day that year.  Their dancing was on point along with the DJ playing salsa music.  I was taken by the pure joy of the dance that they shared with Fiesta guests that day.  This photo was used in many of the early marketing and advertising we used of Fiesta to potential sponsors and on our website.

Entrance to the Cultural Village created by Lui Fernandez – Fiesta 2004

2004 – Another photo from Fiesta’s second year is of the entrance to the Cultural Village.  You’ve already read how much I admire and respect Lui Fernandez’s talent and this particular year, he decided to create an actual entrance to the village!  I like to say that this was the year the Cultural Village really came to life!  It was the year that music broke out all over the village and people were dancing on the sidewalk and there was always a steady crowd of people walking through to experience this community driven village.  Lui created the entrance with the logo and before the event opened, he added flags from all the Hispanic countries to the white posts which made the entrance even more colorful.  It was such a beautiful sight!

Fiesta board member – Mike Suco – helps his parents, Teresa and Ramon Suco – set up the Cuba booth in the Cultural Village in 2005.

2005 – Fiesta’s 3rd year – This is such a favorite photo of mine because it features Fiesta board member, Mike Suco with his parents – Teresa and Ramon Suco.  Mike’s mother, Teresa, found out that Cuba was NOT represented the year before in the cultural village and she was not going to let that happen that particular year!  She took it upon herself to create a beautiful Cuba booth along with her husband and as you can see in this photo – her son, Mike too!  Teresa and Ramon Suco fled Cuba under the Castro regime in 1962, shortly after they were married and came to the US not knowing the language or anyone and made a great life for themselves and their children.  Mr.Suco worked his way to District Supervisor at Big B Drugs while Teresa Suco became a Professor of Spanish at Jacksonville State University.  I remember the first year I was President of Fiesta, Mike told me his mother asked about me and wanted to make sure I was doing all right and he was helping me enough!  I always felt we had a special bond because we shared the same name.  Such lovely people…

2006 – Fiesta’s 4th year – I had been photographing Fiesta all day and was trying to head over to the VIP area to grab a quick bite to eat when I saw Cultural Village (CV) Chair, Lui Fernandez rush over to me.  He excitedly told me I needed to get to the CV stage right away and get some pictures!  Of course, I followed him right over and there on the stage were the cutest children dressed in traditional Mexican costumes dancing traditional Mexican dances!  Their faces were so sweet too!  I remember thinking they seemed so shy and yet they were smiling and dancing their little hearts out for the crowd that had gathered.  This was the year we added the CV stage and I remember there was quite a bit of activity with other dance performances and even a short play in Spanish!  I’m just so grateful that Lui saw me when he did and told me to get to the stage or I would have missed this performance.  This became one of my favorite memories of Fiesta in 2006 – seeing the sweet faces of these children and seeing my friend, Lui’s face, beaming from a distance as he watched this take place…

More to come so please come back every Friday through September 30, 2017!