Tag Archives: Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama

Fiesta – Celebrating in Full Color / Celebrando a todo color!

This year, Fiesta, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage, turned 16.  It’s incredible to me that this little festival, created so many years ago to award scholarships to Hispanic students, has been around this long!  Every year, the number of people who come out to Linn Park to celebrate the best of all things Hispanic, thrills me!  And then I get nostalgic, remembering previous years and I get excited about the traditions the Fiesta board has kept alive all these years.

This year, the board met early to brainstorm how we would top our 15th anniversary celebration – our Quinceañera.  I love it when the conversation starts, the ideas are tossed out and everyone starts talking at once because of the excitement!  It was like that when we decided on our theme this year – Celebrando a todo color / Celebrating in Full Color!

We’ve always said that when people think of Hispanic culture the one word that is universal in describing it is “colorful.”  It’s a nod to the individual cultures of the many Hispanic countries along with the different foods, music and dance.  It really was the perfect theme for Fiesta!

Each year we try to think of something different to offer our patrons and this year it was all about taking the “Fiesta” to each of the villages.  We engaged local talent to do this, which to me, made the event more personal.  For instance, the mariachi band we invited this year  – Mariachi Premier de America – started performing in the middle of the park at the gazebo.  After they finished their set, they walked to the different villages to sing more songs.  Many of the people working the booths at the different villages don’t always get the opportunity to hear and see what all happens at Fiesta so this was especially nice for them.  I saw a friend a week after Fiesta who was working at the Health & Wellness village and she said the people at their tent were so thrilled to be “serenaded” by the mariachi band and hoped we would do this again next year!  This is how traditions get started…

We also brought a lot of cultural performances back to Fiesta this year.  From the Aztec performers to the traditional Mexican dancers, we had many colorful acts for people to see and enjoy.   The Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama opened Fiesta with their traditional flag ceremony and the march of the Hispanic flags around the park.  My dear friend, Marisela Mendez, got this tradition started several years ago and we love seeing the Girl Scouts – some dressed in their uniforms and some dressed in traditional Hispanic outfits – participate in Fiesta each year.  It’s a personal highlight for me each year.  Next, Banda Azteca Tonantzin from St. Francis Xavier Church in Birmingham drew quite a crowd for their first appearance in front of the main stage.  I don’t believe we’ve ever had anything quite like this at Fiesta and I hope they’ll come back again because there were moments when I was quite moved watching this group perform.

One of the best moments this year was the last song on the main stage.  Our headliner, Frankie J, was performing and started pulling those of us at the back of the stage towards him.  The rest of the board came up too and we danced along with Frankie J. as he sang us to the end of Fiesta 2018.  It was one of those spontaneous moments that you couldn’t recreate if you tried and the entire board walked away elated about this ending.  There are a few videos floating around of us all on stage with Frankie J. and I’ve seen them several times.  I love that those are available for us to relive this wonderful moment from Fiesta 2018!  And on that note, time to start planning Fiesta 2019!

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 2015…two thousand pictures later…

Mosaico Flamenco performs on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

Mosaico Flamenco performs on the Fiesta Coca Cola Main Stage

Every year, my main focus at Fiesta is capturing all the fun and festivities  with my camera.  From the set up to the village activities to the musical acts…I take a ton of photos!  This year though, I think I topped my all time number of photos.  As I downloaded from my camera on Sunday morning, I couldn’t believe the total number was well over two thousand pics!  Editing is going to be fun…

One of the things that struck me as I flipped through the photos was the fact that the rain and cold weather on Saturday didn’t make a bit of difference in the smiles and enjoyment of the people who attended.  Experiencing Fiesta in the cold and rain was new for ALL of us.  Not that I want inclement weather for Fiesta 2016…but it’s clear that everyone made the most of Fiesta in the cold and rain and enjoyed it as if it were 80 degrees and sunny!  I love our Fiesta family!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures so far…

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