Tag Archives: Culture

Fiesta 2016 – Some of my Favorite Photos

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Drummer for Los Canarios on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day!  The sky was blue and the temperature reached the low 80s and the sun made itself known throughout the day.  After the constant drizzle of the previous year, this was so welcomed to the Fiesta board, volunteers and especially the patrons!

Approximately 14,000 people made their way to Linn Park in downtown Birmingham for the 14th annual Fiesta event on Saturday, September 24.  My favorite things to do every single year is to walk the park, visiting all the booths and meeting and greeting all the nonprofits, businesses and vendors who come to be a part of this incredible event.  I take their photos, welcome the new folks and catch up with old friends along the way.

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A little girl wearing a traditional Mexican dress gets her nails painted in the Family Village.

One of the highlights of this years event was the competition between countries in the Cultural Village – the heart of Fiesta.  A group of judges went through – anonymously – and voted on the best country booth based on presentation and creativity.   This year the Mexico won the competition and took home $500!  Next year, the stakes will be even higher as the best country booth will walk away with $1,000!

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A collage of photos from past Fiestas adorned the Mexico booth in the Cultural Village. The Mexico booth won the first ever competition of Cultural Village country booths!

By the way…next year will be Fiesta’s 15th year anniversary – our quinceanera…and we have big things planned for this milestone!  Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 30, 2017, for Fiesta 2017 and stay tuned for an event packed year leading up to this great event!

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Mark your calendar for Fiesta 2017!!!!!

Meanwhile…please enjoy some of my favorite photos from this year’s Fiesta!

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Fiesta 2015 Rain or Shine!

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This was the crowd during the last two acts of the night…incredible! Despite the cold!

This was Fiesta’s “lucky” 13th year.  Every year as we (the organizers) approach the event, we always keep our fingers crossed about the weather and every year with the exception of one, the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm.  This year, the outlook started out that way…we kept looking at the forecast and it showed mild temperatures but sunny.  Perfect, you could say!  Then closer to the event, it showed cloudy and a chance of showers.  Then it started raining…

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Two Fiesta patrons in rain gear on their way to the Coca Cola Music Stage.

When you have an outdoor festival, you have to expect the weather will catch up with you at some point.  So for Fiesta’s 13th year, it did.  We thought the rain would stop by noon – that’s when Fiesta “officially” opens, so we were hopeful.  Then the forecast changed to 1 p.m. – and if you were there, you know that didn’t happen.  I think we were just on the wrong side of the road when it came to the rain.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a downpour.  And thankfully, people came out and simply put on hats, rain ponchos or just didn’t care about getting wet.  Incredibly, as the day went on, and the drizzle came and went, people kept coming and enjoying the villages and especially the music.  All in all, I would have to say this was one of our best years!

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Veronica Richey with BB&T Bank threw on a rain poncho and got to work at her booth at Fiesta wearing a Costa Rica hat!

This year’s Fiesta showed us that people love this event and want to be here no matter what.  It also proved to be one of the most diverse crowds I believe we have ever had.  This absolutely thrilled us. This event matters to the Hispanic community and also to the community at large and this was proven with the numbers we saw all day long.  About 10,000 people made it to Fiesta this year!

Personally, I had the best time once I stopped worrying about my soggy hair.  Thank goodness for hair pins!  As I walked through the park and strolled down the Cultural Village with my camera, I grew a little  concerned for the Cultural Village.   Each year these wonderful members of our Hispanic community bring their own personal artifacts and treasures to share with the Fiesta patrons.  The tents helped keep things dry and the rain didn’t seem to affect those who were there.  They just adjusted and pulled the crowds in to share their country stories.

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Los Millos booth at the Food Village – this was early in the day as the food vendors began preparing food for the day. This is where I got the delicious empanadas from Jairo and Lucero Vargas!

So, right after my friends and Latino News owners,  Jairo and Lucero Vargas treated me to empanadas at the Colombian food vendor – Los Millos, I walked through the village and visited my friend Miguel Vilchez who pulled the Peru booth together.  He gave me a red Peruvian hat to wear to take care of my hair later that day – even though he said my hair looked fine – he’s such a gentleman!  Across from Peru was the Mexico booth.  Maria and Luis had pulled together two booths of beautiful Mexican art and pottery.  It was so colorful!  They gave me a Jarrito jug as a gift which is simply beautiful and then poured me a tequila shot and we took selfies.  Next I went to take photos of the Cuba booth where they gave me some Cuban coffee…OMGEEEE!  That was so wonderful and after the tequila, it REALLY warmed me up.  When I tell you how awesome the Cultural Village is, you need to believe me!  Because of the weather, we all huddled closer together under each tent as we made our way through the village and vendors stationed throughout.  It was such a great feeling of friendship and belonging.  It’s the type of feeling I want everyone to experience at Fiesta.

And here I was worried about the rain…

Me and Miguel at the Peru booth.

Me and Miguel at the Peru booth.

Jarrito jars at the Mexico booth.  This is the type of clay jar that Maria and Luis gave to me at Fiesta.  So beautiful!!!

Jarrito jars at the Mexico booth. This is the type of clay jar that Maria and Luis gave to me at Fiesta. So beautiful!!!

Some of the beautiful items displayed at the Mexico booth!

Some of the beautiful items displayed at the Mexico booth!

Cuba booth!  The Cuban coffee was safely tucked away behind the table...

Cuba booth! The Cuban coffee was safely tucked away behind the table…

Believe it or not...this little cup of Cuban coffee did wonders for the chill I was experiencing at Fiesta!  Packed a punch!

Believe it or not…this little cup of Cuban coffee did wonders for the chill I was experiencing at Fiesta! Packed a punch!

With Maria and Luis at the Mexico booth toasting to a wonderful event with a tequila shot!  Salud!

With Maria and Luis at the Mexico booth toasting to a wonderful event with a tequila shot! Salud!

A few items from the Peru booth - Miguel gave me the red hat to wear as he packed up his booth to leave...sure did help hide my soggy hair!

A few items from the Peru booth – Miguel gave me the red hat to wear as he packed up his booth to leave…sure did help hide my soggy hair!

Puerto Rico booth!

Puerto Rico booth!

What Are You Doing on October 3rd?

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Two little girls dressed in native dress, twirl to the music of the main stage…

Looking for something fun to do on October 3rd?

I know…I know…you can’t think past this Saturday, must less a Saturday in October, right?!  Well, pull out your calendar NOW and write in BIG BOLD Letters….Fiesta! in Linn Park!

This will be Fiesta’s 13th year and we have a brand new “village” to add!  I can’t tell you about it just yet but I guarantee you will love it!

Flamenco dancing on the Coca-Cola Main Stage at Fiesta 2014.

Flamenco dancing on the Coca-Cola Main Stage at Fiesta 2014.

As always, we will feature our ever popular Cultural Village so our guests can learn and experience the cultures of the many Hispanic/Latino countries.  In addition, we’ll have the Family Village, Health & Wellness Village, Community Village, Sports Village,  Food Village, Dance Stage and Main Stage.

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A look at the crowd around the Coca-Cola Main Stage at last years Fiesta!

McDonalds is returning as Fiesta’s Presenting  Sponsor for a 2nd year and once again bringing their Fiesta Tour to the event.  I was talking with local McDonald’s owner, Santiago Negre a few weeks ago and he told me the entire tour has been revamped and will be even more outstanding than last year!  We really are so very grateful to Santiago and his brother, Russell, for bringing this wonderful addition to Birmingham for a second year in a row.  It’s really quite a treat to see the tour and all the Hispanic music icons featured.  The Negre brothers have really made their presence felt in our community and continue to do great things to impact lives.

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You can stay up to date with all things Fiesta by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter, and following us on Instagram.  Of course, you can also check our website at any time too.  Tickets will be on sale soon!  Go ahead and join the Facebook Event we’ve created and share with your friends.  The more the merrier at Fiesta!

OK…now that you know the date…go put Fiesta on your calendar…RIGHT NOW!  Hope to see you there!

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The Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama presented the flags of the Latin American countries at the opening of Fiesta last year.

The Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama presented the flags of the Latin American countries at the opening of Fiesta last year.

Birmingham Chinese New Year Festival – Part 3

This is the third and final of a three-part post about the Birmingham Chinese Festival Association and the annual Chinese New Year Festival.

CNYF entranceOne of the things I love the best about festivals is getting to photograph them.  Cultural events are guaranteed to give you a lot of colorful options and the Chinese New Year festival is no exception.  This past year, I arrived at the festival a little late – so I missed the opening ceremony and the dragon dance.  I was a little disappointed about that, but as I entered the Boutwell Auditorium the acts on the main stage immediately got my attention and I almost ran up to them to take photos!

IMG_1844During the entertainment breaks, I walked through the exhibits…the first booth that drew my attention was the Confucian Academy.  There I spotted not one, but two men dressed as Confucius helping each other with their beards!   Adorable!  Later one of the men posed with me for a picture while the other one was busy writing names and other phrases for people in Chinese.

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A little further down, a long table was set up with books, interesting knickknacks and some watercolor paintings.  The chicken got my attention right off the bat.  I don’t know what it is about chickens but I could probably be a collector if I’m not careful.  I think they look beautiful in a kitchen.  So, I quickly grabbed it up for $10 and asked if the artist was nearby because I wanted to meet her and also get her to sign the painting.  Her name was Karen, and she also told me her Chinese name.  I sure wish I could remember it now but when I repeated it to her, she said I was saying it correctly which made me happy.  She then posed for a picture with me along with the painting.  Turns out, I was at the Troy University Confucius Institute’s (CIT) table.  I know Troy has a very robust international program and it was great to see them in Birmingham for this festival so more people could learn about it.

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For the remainder of the time I was there, I stood in front of the elevated sound and light system and took pictures of the stage performances.  Everything from yoga dancers to sword dancing to a guy juggling a large chinese vase and finally a guy balancing on numerous stacked chairs.  Everyone of these acts so colorful and leaving the crowd anxious for the next.  Here are a few of my favorites from this past year.  Sometimes, it’s hard to narrow them down!

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Preparing for Día de los Muertos

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This year is being called Year of the Mexican Artist at Day of the Dead Birmingham. (Photo from Dia de los Muertos Alabama facebook page.)

 

This time each year, I receive a number of “chores for the weekend” emails from the Birmingham Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) Festival with great information and lists of ways that volunteers can help each week.  Things like puppet painting, sign hand lettering, hang butterflies, work on animal altar, restore old parade umbrellas…  I love seeing these emails because it adds to the excitement that DOD is approaching!  This little festival has grown into a powerhouse and is in its 12th year. Born the same year as Fiesta Birmingham it is a highlight of the fall for me after Fiesta is over.  I get to jump from one colorful event to another and both Latino themed to boot!

As I mentioned, DOD started the same year as Fiesta but I have to confess, I didn’t know about its existence until about year 3 when a story hit the Birmingham News entertainment section about the event and why it was created.  I was intrigued…a Day of the Dead Festival in Birmingham, AL??!!  I remember thinking – this is so incredible – and I also remember thinking what an education this festival could provide to our community at large – much like what we were trying to do with Fiesta and the different cultures within the Latino community.  DOD is another aspect to Latino culture that is not quite understood, but this festival is determined to make it understood!

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During the early days of the festival, this alley behind the gallery was filled with remembrances and tributes…so much to see and so many touching photos and artifacts.

At the time, DOD was housed each year inside and around Bare Hands Gallery in downtown Birmingham.  One day at lunch (this was in 2006),  I decided I had to go by and meet Wendy Jarvis, the Director of the gallery.  Turns out, she had wanted to meet me too so we could discuss our mutual festivals and how we might partner!  Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?!

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Tracy Martin puts some finishing touches to the Spider Martin altar when it was in the alley behind Bare Hands Gallery.

I found out more about DOD and its creation that day.  Local artist Tracy Martin wanted to find a way to honor her late father, civil rights photographer James “Spider” Martin, when she and some close friends turned the gallery courtyard into a huge altar and memorial wall.  This was in 2002.  The celebration was expanded – and “born” – the following year and other artists and members of the community were invited to make their own altars and “ofrendas.”  Wendy said as the celebration continued each year, she saw it as an opportunity to expand the gallery culturally, especially with the growing Hispanic community in Birmingham.

So that year – 2006 – was the year Wendy, Isabel Rubio – Executive Director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), and I met to discuss how we would partner to bring more Latinos to the event.  A women’s group from HICA took part in the celebration and built small altars at the event and brought family to celebrate a tradition they would have normally celebrated in Mexico.  Since that time, HICA has always had a booth and altar display at DOD and become a true partner of the celebration.

That year, DOD also participated in Fiesta by having a booth in our non-profit village and showcasing some of the art and sugar skulls that would be on display at DOD.  It was a great way for Bare Hands Gallery and DOD to get the word out – in English and Spanish – to Fiesta attendees, reaching a huge cross-section of the community.

Oh and one more thing…DOD is a photographers dream…you can’t take a bad photograph at this event.  The colors, altars, costumes and entertainment are…do I dare say…to die for!

Here are a few of my own photos from the early days…

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Day of the Dead displays behind the gallery. As the event grew this lot behind the gallery became a huge part of the celebration.

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Tracy Martin’s tribute altar to her father, Spider Martin.

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Thelma and Louise sugar skulls! This was part of a huge display of famous couples – one of my favorites!

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One of the most poignant parts of Day of the Dead is the roll call…people can add the names of their loved ones to be read during the celebration.

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Enjoying one of the festivals with Wendy Jarvis and my dear friend, Lui Fernandez.

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Festival co-founder – Tracy Martin (right) – in one of her many beautiful sugar skull creation costumes.

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Always love getting a hug from Festival Co-Founder, Wendy Jarvis at each years event.

Fiesta…one thousand pictures later…

Fiesta 2014 is now a great memory for the board and planning committee…it was an incredible day!  Last Saturday, September 27th, we enjoyed great weather, huge attendance, many new vendors and participants, and reconnected with so many long time amigos!  We reconfigured our set-up in Linn Park and it really made a difference in the attendee traffic.  Everywhere I looked, there were people and families enjoying the event, eating delicious food and sitting on the beautiful green grass.

Our title sponsor, McDonalds, brought an incredible exhibit – The Fiesta Tour – a 53-foot long traveling mobile unit that pays tribute to Latin GRAMMY winners – to Birmingham for us to enjoy. Every time I went by the exhibit, there were crowds – such a beautiful sight!  The Santiago brothers, Santiago and Russ, have been wonderful partners to Fiesta this year and we are so grateful for their presence!

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The McDonald’s Fiesta Tour entrance. What an incredible exhibit!

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A dress worn by Gloria Estefan and a guitar owned by Carlos Santata – just a few of the items in the McDonald’s Fiesta Tour on display.

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Sombrero belonging to Mexican artist – Vicente Fernandez – in the McDonald’s Fiesta Tour.

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Ronald McDonald gets anchored in Linn Park, in the Family Village.

I downloaded more than one thousand photos last Sunday afternoon.  It always amazes me how many photos I take at Fiesta each year.  And yet, there are always shots I miss and think about later.  Oh!  And this doesn’t include the photos I take with my iPhone!   One of my favorite elements this year was having the Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama participate with the presentation of colors, pledge of allegiance, Girl Scout promise (in English and Spanish), and finally parade around the park with the flags of the Latin countries while dressed in native costumes!  It was absolutely a BEAUTIFUL sight!  In fact, I do believe (aside from the music acts), that the Girl Scouts were the most photographed group of the day!  The magnificent Marisela Mendez, the Hispanic Initiative Manager for GSNCA, worked for many weeks to pull the girls and their families together for Fiesta.  This Dominican woman is a “powerhouse” and the community is lucky to have her working for Hispanic girls in our region.  Her heart is all about connecting these little girls with Girl Scouts and she will do everything possible to ensure they can have the Girl Scout experience in their lives.

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This precious little one lead the Girl Scouts around the park in the parade of flags, dressed in a beautiful white mariachi outfit.

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The Girl Scouts pose in front of their booth at Fiesta.

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The Hispanic Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama during the flag ceremony – presentation of colors.

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Talking to one of the Girl Scouts after the parade of flags…this little one was so precious and apparently I wasn’t saying her name the right way – she kept correcting me! (Photo credit: Cristina Almanza)

I’ve pulled a few of my favorite photos from Fiesta to share on the blog.  If you were at Fiesta and took some photos, please post them on the Fiesta facebook page!  We would love to see what you captured!!!

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This little one kept twirling to the music next to the main stage. Such joy!

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This little girl saw me taking photos of the girl in the pink and decided she wanted to twirl and have her picture taken too!

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Sugar Skull faces at Fiesta! These young ladies were popular – everyone wanted to have their pictures taken with them!

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Got to hang out with my daughter, Anna Marie, for part of the day. She is always so helpful when I’m making my photography rounds in the park.

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Dancers on the stage…they certainly drew a crowd!

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Running into Ricardo and Aimee Aparicio was the best!Reconnecting with long time friends is one of the joys of Fiesta for me. Ricardo was there when Fiesta was started.

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On stage with El Dasa! Great energy during his entire performance!

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El Dasa’s surprise meet and greet with a young girl battling cancer – I don’t think there was a dry eye in the trailer when this happened.

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A crowd shot from the stage as El Dasa performs…

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It’s always fun to run into Clark Scott and Larry Gay at Fiesta. They take some amazing photos each year!

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Crowds were massive this year at Fiesta 2014!

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Traditional Mexican dresses for sale at Fiesta.

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Two of the hardest working women at Fiesta this year – board members Vannessa Vargas and Cristina Almanza! They absolutely ROCK!

‘Twas the Night Before Fiesta…

‘Twas the night before Fiesta and all through Linn Park…not a creature was stirring…well, THAT’S not exactly true!  Fiesta’s event planner extraordinaire, Denise Koch of Denise Koch Events, was there working with the tent company, and others to get the park ready for Fiesta 2014 tomorrow!  Remember, Fiesta takes place tomorrow – Saturday, September 27th, from noon to 8 p.m. in Linn Park…admission is $8 at the gate and children 12 and under attend for free!

Here are a few photos of the event prep and also Fiesta’s morning on Fox 6 News with Jeh Jeh Pruitt to promote the event.

It's always fun to find a Coca-Cola Truckback with the Fiesta poster every year!

It’s always fun to find a Coca-Cola Truckback with the Fiesta poster every year!

Our event planner, Denise Koch, works on getting the signage up in Linn Park.

Our event planner, Denise Koch, works on getting the signage up in Linn Park.

The McDonald's Fiesta Tour arrives at the park!  This exhibit is so incredible - can't wait to see it again!

The McDonald’s Fiesta Tour arrives at the park! This exhibit is so incredible – can’t wait to see it again!

Main stage schedule of acts for Fiesta 2014.

Main stage schedule of acts for Fiesta 2014.

Sun setting on Linn Park Friday night...the tents all in place and just waiting for the exhibitors to arrive in the morning...

Sun setting on Linn Park Friday night…the tents all in place and just waiting for the exhibitors to arrive in the morning…

A look at some of the Fiesta signage and the FiestaTour in the background in front of Boutwell Auditorium.

A look at some of the Fiesta signage and the FiestaTour in the background in front of Boutwell Auditorium.

Linn Parks presents...Fiesta 2014!  Nice place for our sign!

Linn Parks presents…Fiesta 2014! Nice place for our sign!

Jeh Jeh Pruitt gets into the first Fiesta segment on Fox 6 News!  He really liked that sombrero!

Jeh Jeh Pruitt gets into the first Fiesta segment on Fox 6 News! He really liked that sombrero!

Ronald has fun with Nicky and Vincent Koch in between Fox 6 News segments.

Ronald has fun with Nicky and Vincent Koch in between Fox 6 News segments.

Fox 6 news coverage of Fiesta with Jeh Jeh Pruitt, Matt Ennis (Fiesta Board President), and Birmingham McDonald's owners, Santiago and Russell Negre...and of course, Ronald McDonald!

Fox 6 news coverage of Fiesta with Jeh Jeh Pruitt, Matt Ennis (Fiesta Board President), and Birmingham McDonald’s owners, Santiago and Russell Negre…and of course, Ronald McDonald!

Cooking segment featuring Mi Pueblo on Fox 6 News - the food at Fiesta is always the best!

Cooking segment featuring Mi Pueblo on Fox 6 News – the food at Fiesta is always the best!

Table set up for the Fox 6 News Segment.

Table set up for the Fox 6 News Segment.

Photo opp with Jeh Jeh Pruitt in between Fiesta segments.  He's such a fun guy!

Photo opp with Jeh Jeh Pruitt in between Fiesta segments. He’s such a fun guy!