Tag Archives: Denise Koch Events

#30 Days of Fiesta – Part 1

Fiesta 2020 went virtual with #30daysoffiesta!

This is the first of a two-part post about #30 Days of Fiesta 2020 and how the Fiesta Board was able to create memorable virtual events for our community.

How do you have Alabama’s largest Hispanic culture and heritage festival during a worldwide pandemic?  That’s the question the Fiesta board was asking ourselves on April 20, 2020, during our first virtual board meeting.

We had already met on February 1st for our usual event review and strategy session.  Looking back on those notes, I remember the energy in the room that Saturday morning and how excited everyone was to share their ideas for our 18th year.  That day, we were even looking ahead to our 20th anniversary celebration in 2022.  We had also settled on a theme for the year – Celebrating in Unity / Celebrando Unidos – to coincide with the 2020 World Games that were set to happen in Birmingham this year.

By April, with the pandemic in full swing, a number of spring events had already begun postponing until the fall.  Our event planner, Denise Koch manages many of the area’s largest events so she was well versed in what was happening and the concerns out there.  Of course, with the state-wide order to limit the number of people gathering, among other precautions, that pretty much took care of having anything for a while!  The fall looked somewhat promising but we still had concerns.  So, at our April board meeting we decided to keep a watch on how things were progressing and make a final decision – go or no go – at our June board meeting.  Even then, we knew we would have to make some changes to keep our patrons safe. Board members were all coming up with alternative ideas to have Fiesta so we all agreed to submit them for discussion in June.

One of our virtual board meetings when board member, Phil Sandoval decided to wear his Lucha Libre mask. He knows how to bring the laughter!

The discussion was pretty lively at our June meeting!  So many great suggestions were shared and we dissected them every which way to see what fit Fiesta the best.  The one main decision though was to not have a live event on September 26 as we had hoped.  There was just too much risk and even those events that had rescheduled to fall were cancelling again.

Fiesta 2020 was set to be something we never dreamed it could be!  We decided to plan virtual events for 30 days during Hispanic Heritage Month which began September 15 and ended on October 15.  Our theme changed to #30DaysofFiesta at this point and boy did we ever “Fiesta!”  Fiesta 2020 would also prove to be a quite a learning experience for us all in terms of developing new skills and working in a virtual world.  As my husband continued to remind me throughout the 30 days…ya’ll took a one-day event and created 30+ events, so this will be a lot of work.  He was certainly right about that!

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of #30 Days of Fiesta where I share details of the virtual events, we were able to provide in lieu of a live event in Linn Park, Alabama.









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!


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 Night with Los Barons – Part 2

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

It was a beautiful afternoon…the weather was great, sun shining and a slight breeze found its way through the park every so often.  I thought I was arriving at the park early to help Fiesta’s event manager extraordinaire, Denise Koch, put Fiesta flyers in all the cup holders at Regions Park.  I should have known better.  Denise had been hard at work since early that morning on Fiesta Night with Los Barons and had everything under control.  I “did” manage to wrestle a small stack of the flyers away from her and finish up one section so she could take a break.

These Fiesta flyers were placed in every cup holder at Regions Field.

These Fiesta flyers were placed in every cup holder at Regions Field.

Fiesta and the Birmingham Barons partnered for a second year to bring a Latin flair to the ballpark this past August.  Our thanks go out to the wonderful people at the Birmingham Barons, in particular, John Cook, Director of Sales, and Don Leo, Corporate Sales Manager, with the Corporate Partnerships Department, for all they did to make our time there so enjoyable.

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta's founding board members poses with his son Mikey, and Barons Staff Members John Cook and Don Leo.

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta’s founding board members poses with his son Mikey, and Barons Staff Members John Cook and Don Leo.

Once again, we had students from Samford University’s Latin American Studies participate in the parade of Latin American flags.  We even had a few sponsors get into the act which thrilled us!  Our sponsors from BB&T and Regions Bank both grabbed flags and made their way around the infield with the students and Fiesta board members.  It was such a beautiful sight!

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Students from Samford University Latin American Studies take to Regions Field for the parade of Latin American flags at Fiesta Night with Los Barons on August 27.

Next, Don Leo introduced Fiesta and a short video of last year’s event was shown on the big screen.  The video was produced by board member Orlando Rosa with La Jefa Radio Station.  Ever the perfectionist, Orlando mentioned later that he wasn’t completely happy with the video but the rest of us LOVED it!  It definitely got the crowd going and gave them a taste of what to expect on October 3rd!

Fiesta board member, Orlando Rosa helps Don Leo of The Barons open up the game festivities in Spanish!

Fiesta board member, Orlando Rosa helps Don Leo of The Barons open up the game festivities in Spanish!

Mike Suco, one of Fiesta’s founding board members was on hand with his son Mikey, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.  Mike didn’t miss a beat and never lingered on the pitcher’s mound.  He threw out the perfect pitch so fast we almost missed it!  Reminded me of the early days of Fiesta when Mike would just get things done!  It thrilled us to have Mike and his family with us that night to celebrate and reminisce about Fiesta, especially for some of the newer board members and sponsors who had never met him but heard a few of us talk about him with such admiration over the years.

Mike Suco, throws out the ceremonial first pitch as his son watches beside him.

Mike Suco, throws out the ceremonial first pitch as his son watches beside him.

As always, we had the opportunity to talk to interested people attending the Barons game about Fiesta and encourage them to get advance tickets to the event.  Ronald McDonald came by to represent our Title Sponsor, McDonalds, and had pictures made with kids young and old.  I always love it when adults want their picture made with Ronald!  I had mine made with him last year!

One of the many photos Ronald McDonald took with Barons Baseball game attendees.

One of the many photos Ronald McDonald took with Barons Baseball game attendees.

Don’t forget…Fiesta is Saturday, October 3rd from noon to 8 p.m. in downtown Linn Park!  Meanwhile, here are a few more pics from our night with Los Barons!


Mike Suco and his son pose with the baseball before the ceremonial first pitch is thrown.


We had to get our photo with Ronald too! Left to right – Ronald, me, Vanesa Vargas and Freddy Rubio.


Orlando pulled double duty at the game with a live remote, along with his wife and co-worker, Maria – better known on air as La Chikis!


Parting shot of the Regions Field Birmingham sign as I was walking to my car after the game. This is such a beautiful facility. If you’ve never been, you have to check it out!


The parade of Latin American flags begins and is lead by the Stars and Stripes of the USA! That’s Fiesta Board member, Vanesa Vargas with the Fiesta sign in front!