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 2011 was one for the record books! When I think back on this particular year, there was so much going on and also a bit of turmoil. Turmoil…that’s not a word you would normally associate with a festival, but in this particular year, we had a bit of that with the creation of the state’s anti-illegal immigration bill called HB 56.
This law went into effect the week of Fiesta, so naturally the board and committee members were concerned. We didn’t want trouble for our event nor did we want people to target us for any negative reason. I mean, we are a cultural festival…we don’t have a political agenda. We’ve made that clear from day one of our event. But the reality is when you have a bill such as this and a Hispanic event about to take place, the natural inclination was to be targeted by the press to get a comment or two about the situation. Usually an event works hard to get the media to cove them because you never know if a breaking new story will divert their attention. Well, in this case we didn’t have to hustle a bit! All the networks came out and I remember vividly having 3 to 4 microphones pushed in my face asking me questions about the bill and how we felt about it. I had my talking points down beforehand and stuck to those during the interviews. To this day, I can’t believe I was able to get through all those questions but the press was more than kind with their coverage of Fiesta that year. We are forever grateful for that!
In fact, the greater community came out in droves to support us. We had a lot of first time patrons because they disagreed with the new law and wanted to show support in some way. They figured attending a Hispanic event was a good way to show solidarity. I had many people tell me this that day. It was so heartwarming. Keep in mind, Fiesta was created to showcase ALL Hispanic countries…not just Mexico. So this really fit into the education component of our mission. Yes, the majority of attendees are generally Mexican and the assumption is always that they are undocumented. But Fiesta has always been proud of the diversity in not only attendance, but also participants of the event.
Fiesta 2011 had so much to offer that year. Aside from the cultural, nonprofit and family villages, we were able to create a partnership with Little Caesar’s Pizza to create what we called the “world’s largest Mexican pizza.” The City of Hoover has a giant oven that they have used at evens to bake a gigantic apple pie. We were able to get permission to use that oven and the pizza was created!!! It was amazing to see the crane bring the oven in and pull the huge pan out for the toppings to be added. I loved watching the guy crawl out on what looked like a diving board to test and see if the pizza the “done.” People gathered to watch and wait patiently to sample this savory pizza!
On a personal note, my daughter Emily, completed her Girl Scout Gold Award project that year at Fiesta. She brought friends together to create a skit in English and Spanish on recycling and presented it over the afternoon for groups of families. She also handed out water bottles with information on how to recycle to children in the Family Village. The bottles were labeled “Message in a bottle/Mensaje en una botella.” In addition, she contacted Recycle Alabama to bring recycling bins to Fiesta for the first time ever. All in all, it was a very successful project and it was great to see the Family Village so active with Emily and her friends. This was a great compliment to the Home Depot army that was present once again that year!
We had a challenge with our musical acts that year too. As you can probably imagine, several of the music acts we had booked cancelled at the last minute due to the political climate in the state. Who could blame them…but that’s not exactly the news you want to hear right before the festival opens!!! At any rate, we were able to draw from many local acts to fill the gaps. We also had the talents of DJ Crème from New York that year who was fantastic and really stepped up with the situation facing us. The final act of the night was contacted around one o’clock that day and agreed to drive all the way from Nashville to perform for us. They were fabulous and teamed up with DJ Crème to really cap off Fiesta 2011.
I think this was the year I realized just how many friends Fiesta has…I mean, it would have been easy to abandon our little festival due to the politics of the day. But we had so much support surrounding us that day. I know many memories were created that day. For me, this was probably the most memorable since the first Fiesta. We came through turmoil and were made better because of it all.
More to come so please come back every other Friday through September 30, 2017, for more behind the scenes stories of Fiesta!