Tag Archives: Fiesta Fridays

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! 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!

 

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!