Tag Archives: Linn Park

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! 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 2016 – Some of my Favorite Photos

img_1912

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.

img_1911

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!

img_1910

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!

img_1576

Mark your calendar for Fiesta 2017!!!!!

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We Are Better Than This…

IMG_7628I had dinner with some great friends this week…we started talking about all the negativity in the world these days…in particular with politics.  We all vowed to keep things as positive as possible in anything that we post on social media and in the way we conduct our lives.  It made me think of another time in recent years when things got pretty nasty but friends and neighbors pulled together to show unity and hope.  This is a post from a blog I had back in 2011 about events surrounding the anti-immigrant bill (HB56) that was signed into law by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.  This event that I attended and documented showed that not everyone in the state agreed that this law was a good thing…

June 28,2011…

This past weekend I attended, along with my husband and daughter, a candlelight interfaith vigil to protest an anti-immigrant bill that was signed into law by the governor of my state.  This misguided law goes into effect Sept 1st and if you believe the comments on media stories you would think we were back in the 60s and that everyone in the state was anti-immigrant.

The day the governor signed the bill, with the state representatives who sponsored it smiling broadly next to him, I felt sick to my stomach.  Comments ranged from “this will send them all back where they belong” to “this will create jobs for more Alabamians.”  The pure mean-spirited nature of the comments and personal attacks were hard to read at times.  It is being called the toughest illegal immigration bill in the US, modeled after the Arizona law but supposed to be foolproof when it hits the courts.  Again…people smiling broadly like this is something to be proud of in a state where race relations and violations of civil rights are well-known.  People across the US once again are looking at Alabama as the epicenter of discrimination – only this time it is against our “brown” brothers and sisters.  Haters spouting that we are a nation of laws and they must be enforced…quick to forget that just 50 to 60 short years ago segregation was the law of the land and it was clearly unjust.  It seems incredible to look back at such a short time ago and think people thought that was okay.  I’m sure people asked themselves then…WHO are we that we would think this is right…clearly we are better than this.  And many set out to change things…and were successful.

IMG_7629

St. Peter Apostle Catholic Church leads the marchers out of Linn Park.

 

Clearly we are better than this once again. People can’t truly believe this law is just.  If you lived in Alabama in the 60s – like my husband did – you must have the perspective that this is wrong.  Do we really want to go through all that again?

Well the march on Saturday evening set out to prove we have learned something from our history and we ARE better than this.  The march was organized by the faith community…and churches of all denominations were present and denounced this law as morally wrong.  Organizers expected about a thousand people but clearly word got out and people – feeling like they had to do “something” – showed up in bigger numbers.  I think the final estimate was about 2,500 attendees.

IMG_7631

Benedictine nuns…some from out of state…joined in the march.

 

And what a sight it was to see…marchers were asked to wear white shirts and bring a candle.  Churches were asked to bring their banners but other signs were discouraged.  Families came out in full force…it brought tears to my eyes to see the little children – so sweet and innocent….leading the marchers, holding candles and riding on the shoulders of their dads…

IMG_7633

Many families joined in the march…children rode on the shoulders of their fathers. This sweet little girl stayed on her father’s shoulders during the entire march.

 

The crowd was diverse too with about half being Hispanic but the other half was quite a mix.  I’m sure there were many documents AND undocumented who would have liked to have been there but were afraid and I can’t blame them.  The police were present but they were there to make sure the marchers were safe and the Spanish language radio stations tried to get that word out.  Still…fear is real right now…you could see it in some of the marchers eyes and you could hear it in the stories being told to one another throughout the evening.

IMG_7632

Marchers re-enter Linn Park after walking peacefully through the streets of Birmingham.

Afterwards my husband, daughter and I went to dinner with my friend Isabel Rubio and her husband Freddy.  Isabel is the Executive Director of HICA – Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, an organization that I’ve been a part of for about 8 years.   We talked about the march and the law and how it will be challenged.  Isabel mentioned how the one thing missing in her mind is that during the 60’s the marchers had songs to sing.  She said “we don’t have a song.  We need a song.”

She’s right…music unifies and in this case we do need something – a song, a slogan…something that people can grab on to and pull us together.  Maybe others are thinking the same thing and just maybe this will be something organic that grows from further marches and protests to this dreadful law.

IMG_7630

A precious little boy works to keep his candle lit during the march…

We ARE better than this…I think we proved that Saturday night at Linn Park and through the streets of Birmingham.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

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…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

IMG_6811

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

IMG_6820

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

IMG_6821

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!

IMG_6814

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!

IMG_6807

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!

Birmingham Chinese New Year Festival – Part 1

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

IMG_1376

Red Chinese lanterns lined the trees in Linn Park the first year of the festival.

The Magic City is filled with so many fun things to do!  Some weekends, its hard to decide which way to turn with so many options!  This past Saturday, I chose the 9th Annual Chinese New Year Festival at Boutwell Auditorium.  Of course, I’m a little partial to this event since I around when it was born in 2006.

Before the festival was officially formed, many of the Chinese groups and organizations around town would celebrate Chinese New Year with smaller events.  Even the Birmingham Museum of Art held a family event at one time.  The year 2005 was a turning point though, and a concerted effort grew among the community to create one large event – a festival – to celebrate Chinese history and culture.  This became a collaboration between the Birmingham Chinese Association (BCA),  the Birmingham Public Library, the Birmingham Museum of Art and several other Chinese cultural groups.  So, 2005 was the year the Birmingham Chinese Festival Association was born and they began planning their first Chinese New Year Festival in Linn Park.

IMG_1360

Amy Chen of the BCFA served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the Chinese costume fashion show in the Birmingham Museum of Art. Here she entertains the guests with a favorite Chinese song.

Around this time, I met Amy Chen – a dynamo of a woman with a heart so full of a love of her Chinese culture you couldn’t help but smile every time she spoke to you about it!  I always loved talking to Amy.  Sometimes she would get so wrapped up in her stories she would tear up.  Naturally, that would make me tear up too!   She had been to my Fiesta event and loved what we were doing with our Hispanic cultural festival and wanted their Chinese festival to be a success just like ours.  Amy asked me to come to some of the early organizing meetings where I shared what we did with Fiesta, how we organized, the types of sponsorships we looked for and how we mobilized volunteers to share their culture.  Honestly, they had it all together already, but it was nice of Amy to ask me and for the organizing committee to listen to me.  I helped Amy with sponsorship referrals that year and again a few years later when she became President of the BCFA.  It’s hard to say “no” to Amy – and really, I didn’t want to because I know the work it takes to deliver a festival based on sponsorships and volunteers.   It really was a joy to help her.

IMG_1381

The Dragon is always a symbol of the Chinese New Year Festival.

So the first event in Linn Park was February 2007.  It really was exciting and you could feel the excitement building as tables were set up by vendors and organizations around the fountain in Linn Park.  The smell of Chinese food began drifting through the air from the gazebo in the park and I couldn’t wait to grab a plate and dig in!  The opening ceremonies featured a ribbon cutting and fireworks along with the Dragon Dance through the park.  Across the street at the museum, Amy was busy at work getting a fashion show ready with modern and traditional dress.  In between costume changes, she arranged for music performances and even sang a song herself to the audience!

IMG_1375

The models pose at the end of the Chinese fashion show. Some wore modern clothing and some wore traditional clothing. All were so colorful!

 

The festival drew about 4,000 people to downtown Birmingham on a sunny, cold February day, and much like Fiesta, it was more than was anticipated for a first time event and definitely enough to call it a success and began planning for the next year.

Part 2 – The festival steps up and moves into Boutwell Auditorium along with entertainment straight from China!

IMG_1378

Photo opp with Curtis Pickens of AT&T, my friend, Peggy Burnett of the APC Foundation and Amy Chen at the sight of the ribbon cutting. Amy insisted we be a part of the ceremony!

IMG_1379

The crowds were drawn to the many vendors at the festival. I saw many red lanterns walking away from the park, including one in my hand!

IMG_1380

My friend, Peggy, learns how to use the Kau Cim Fortune Telling Sticks. First, you shake the cylinder so that the sticks pop out and then you select the tallest one. Finally, you read the number on the stick and look up your fortune in a book. Not as easy as it may sound but we enjoyed experimenting!

IMG_1377

I love this picture of these little boys playing in the park.

 

IMG_1374

This little girl was loving her costume and the fact that she got to walk the runway – a diva in the making!

IMG_1370

This is Amy Chen’s daughter rocking this pink traditional costume.

IMG_1366

This is probably one of my favorite costumes. I don’t know if it’s because of the turquoise color or simply the fact that the model is so beautiful.

IMG_1373

This guy was hilarious! A friend of Amy Chen’s from work…he volunteered to walk the runway and did his costume proud!

IMG_1361

In between costume changes, this young woman entertained the guests by playing a “sanxian” – a Chinese lute.

IMG_1363 IMG_1369