Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Big L.A. Af-Fair! - Part 1 - Week 40

Welcome Back!  Hello Costa Rica and Guam, it's nice to have you join the blog!  Last week's post was another one of those that surprised me.  People must have connected with it because I had a huge spike in readership!  Wow!  Thank you.  This week I am kicking off a two part blog series on the 2013 L.A. County Fair. Let's get right into it.

The 2013 L.A. County Fair in Pomona, California ran from August 30th through September 29th. Over 1.5 million Southern Californians showed up to experience all that the fair has to offer.  And it offers plenty - Entertainment, a huge variety of food, animals, cars, rides, shopping, exhibits, and much, much more!  There is definitely something for everyone!  A fun time for all!  If you missed it, don't worry, it will be back around before you know it!

Nestled towards the back of the Fairplex, next door to the Fair View Farms, rests an area referred to as Plaza de Las Americas.  The overall theme of this area is Mexican oriented; however, several Latin, Spanish and Hispanic cultures can be found represented here. In the Plaza there is a stage where a variety of entertainment from these cultures is put on display for fair attendees.  Every year, several folklorico groups from around California come and share their talents in colorful choreographed presentations.  Many of these have been captured on film by "Folklorico  Page" on Facebook.  Visit their timeline and photo albums for viewing. Folklorico Page and Multicultural California always do an outstanding job of photo and video documenting the arts.  Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.  You are greatly appreciated.

The stage is sponsored by Bud Light and Cardenas grocery stores and sits between the beer garden and King Taco. Check out this giant inflatable "Saturday Night Fever" King Taco chef that was there striking a pose.  Get your disco on man! Several cultural retailers also surround the area. Shows are every half hour to hour on the weekends, when the fair is at its busiest. You never have to wait very long.  Groups are allowed up to 30 dancers maximum and you'll see every age group represented. There is usually a good turn out by fair attendees to watch the shows throughout the day.

In the fall of 2011, the first show I saw Herencia Mexicana perform after my initial exposure to the group in 2010, was their L.A. County Fair appearance.  Here I am with Richard back in 2011, carrying some costumes into the fair.  The show that year was awesome.  I remember thinking that one day I might have the possibility to perform there too.  Just one problem, I wasn't part of the group yet and I had no training. So I had lots of work to do if I was ever going to get up on that stage.

Herencia did not perform at the fair in 2012.  The group took the year off due to high turnover, which I have written about in past posts.  Many members graduated and moved on in life!  We did attend the fair, however, and watched some of the groups perform. Specifically, we went to see Sol de Mexico Ballet Folklorico and Resplandor de Mexico perform.  We also went to the Ramon Ayala concert.  

In June of this year, 2013, Richard received an email from the fair offices with the application to perform at the fair.  Richard asked me if I would like to dance at the fair and if Herencia should do it. Now, I've shared how I like to hoard venues and performances, so of course I said "yes"!  So an application was submitted. Later, our request to perform was approved and confirmed.  Herencia was assigned a show slot on September 29th from 1:30 to 2:00 pm, which was the last day of the fair. You know what they always say about "the last"!

Now after the application was all submitted, Richard had the task of putting together a show.  A 30 minute show seems simple enough, but it's a bit more work than one might imagine.  To complicate matters, Richard was in the process of transforming his group.  I'll be sharing more about that in a post in a couple weeks, so stay tuned!

After returning from Denver, practices resumed with Images of Mexico.  You can read more on Denver in posts back on weeks 26 & 27.  Richard started teaching his Sinaloa dances and others to Images.  Herencia continued to share practice time and space with Images in Covina, California.  The two groups worked together, under Richard's instruction, to execute his vision.

After some time passed, Richard and I were asked to dance at Disney with Sol de Mexico BF.  So we started practicing with them on Mondays.  Read about that whole experience in my post on week 37. After Disney, Richard began teaching seven ladies from Sol who auditioned for the show, two of his Chiapas dances.  They learned the dances rather quickly, in just a few short weeks.

Practices continued with Herencia, Images and Sol through August and September.  Above are some pictures of our rehearsals for the fair.  In September, I created a Facebook event for Herencia's fair show, inviting over 1400 guests.  Throughout September, I continued to promote and share updates on Facebook of our progress.


Now if that wasn't enough, Sol had their fair show on September 22, 2013.  Richard and I were asked to dance in their show.  So we danced!  The day before Sol's fair performance, on September 21st, Sol danced at the Riverside Mariachi Festival and competed in the folklorico competition.  Sol took first place in the competition!  Congratulations!  The next day they performed at the fair.  We joined them for the show and this was my big debut at the fair!  My first time.

I was nervous and excited.  We practiced together the Monday before the show and I drilled myself all week.  I was ready.  The day of the fair came and I took the stage with Sol at 3:30 in the afternoon. I danced their Jalisco, same as at Disney.  There was some variation in choreography however.  What made the performance nerve racking was other dance groups were present in the audience.  As a performer, you could feel the weight of their stare and thoughts in the air.  It's sobering to dance for other dancers.  St. Mary's Ballet Folklorico of Redlands danced right before Sol.  Richard started his folklorico journey with them at the age of 9.  So there was pressure to impress.

The time came for the Jalisco portion of the show and I took the stage.  There was a full house and people standing in the back.  Seemed like everyone showed up to see the competition champs.  The first dance went well.  Then came the big Negra finish.  We got this!  At one point in the dance the men gather to one side of the stage and circle around doing four sets of burracho steps, then they dart across the stage, kicking, to meet up with their partners.  Sounds simple enough right?  I can count to four, right?

So what happened?  The Wedo only did two sets of burrachos before darting across stage, leaving his fellow comrades behind.  Oops!  Suddenly, I realized I was all alone.  Oh dear.  All I could do is smile and say "cheese"! How embarrassing.  But as they say, the show must go on and it did.  We finished strong but I was irritated with myself for the mess up.  I kept telling myself, "You need to read your own blog.  You wrote about this kind of stuff" - week 15's "Commitment Failures & Uncertainty".  I was pretty hard on myself.  Everyone said it wasn't obvious and that things happen, just role with it.  I was disappointed in myself, but there was no time to dwell, Herencia's show was only a week away!  Thank you Sol for another performing opportunity, learning and growing experience.  You aided in preparing me for my next fair performance the following weekend, now I knew what to expect!  And, I will definitely get it right next time!

Now before we get into Herencia's 2013 L.A. Fair show, I need to back up.  In addition to teaching Herencia dances to Images, Sol and Herencia dancers, Richard took on the additional task of new costuming.  Richard worked with trenza hairpiece designer Yolanda Romo to create all new hairpieces for the show. It was a complete makeover.  Richard also had new Sinaloa & Chihuahua costumes made by seamstress Imelda Orozco.  He had vests made for the charro suits, as well as new hats and accessories purchased for the show.  He even designed and created the Sinaloa hats himself, which received many compliments.  It was a massive costume undertaking overall.

Richard also added some finishing Regions to the show - Chihuahua, Baja California (performed by the Romo sisters) and Puebla.  Everything was coming together. All the dances were specifically Herencia's repertoire except Baja. Richard asked Carmen Dominguez and Yolanda Romo to come and announce for the show wearing Herencia costuming.  Christopher Bernal took video.  Folklorico Page took photography and video.  It was a complete production.  In all, we had ten dancers from Sol, four from Images and seven from Herencia.  A team effort!  Make sure you go to YouTube and search for Herencia Mexicana Folklorico and view all the videos posted of us!  I'll be sharing some next week as well!

The Friday before the show, Richard worked extensively on organizing all the costuming.  One thing I can say about Richard is that he goes all out on costuming, regardless of the cost.  You only get one chance to leave a lasting first impression.  Together we invested a large amount of personal finances into this show.  We wanted to ensure we looked our best.  The costume preparation continued through Saturday.  We even made one last trip into Los Angeles for some finishing details.  It's all about the details. The car was completely loaded up by Saturday night so all we had to do is wake up, get ready, have some coffee and go.


After a good nights rest, Sunday morning arrived and I got up and started my pre-show ritual.  You should know it already, I shared it back on week 29.  There was just one variation, Richard got me an electric nose an ear hair clipper!  And guess what, it works!  Tickles a little bit but it's less painful than the tweezer method.  Thank you Richard.

Bright and early Sunday we were off to the Fairplex to get an up close parking spot.  It was a beautiful Southern California day.   Gate 9 is the closest to the stage and we lugged all the costuming from the car to the stage.  They set us up in a room to start our final costume prep.  In 2012, we bought a steam iron at the fair in one of their many shopping exhibit halls.  Richard began steaming out any wrinkles the costumes had from transport.  Then as time went on, he determined we needed a second steam iron.   So I went on a hunt for another.  Found it.  After some mild drama, they gave me an iron that actually steamed.  We finished up the costumes and dancers started arriving about noon. Check out these arrival pictures and prep photos from backstage.

Just as Richard had given me the industrial nose and ear trimmer gift, I got Richard a gift as well.  I wanted to say thank you for all his hard work and give him something in recognition and appreciation.  I think most people underestimate the amount of work these shows require.  I have had the pleasure and experience of seeing the whole production come together from beginning to end.  It's a lot of work.  I've also had the pleasure of petty arguments and snippy remarks as the show get closer and stress levels rise.  Exhaustion can bring that out of you!  Lucky me!  Anyways, I got him a silver vaquero (cowboy) style money clip.  I wanted leather gloves, but no one had them in stock yet.

A crowd began to gather at the stage.  There were two other groups that performed before us.  A lot of chaos and drama backstage in the cramped changing quarters.  Not the most pleasant of experiences at times.  After the group that performed right before us finally vacated their dressing rooms and ours, our dancers started getting themselves made up and put together.  Before you know it Richard called out "8 Minutes Everyone!"  The time was here.  Months of practice, preparation and hard work was given its moment.  Richard gathered everyone backstage and thanked them for all their hard work. Then he said a prayer as the group held hands in a circle.

It was showtime!  Carmen and Yolanda took the stage and the microphone!  Ready or not, here we go!  No turning back!  So how did the show go?  Be sure to come back next week for part 2!  To be continued.....

In closing, I want to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Sol de Mexico Ballet Folklorico and Images of Mexico.  A special "thank you" to Carmen Dominguez, Director of Sol and Pilla Romero, Director of Images.  I like to think that we are building community by having dance groups work together on large projects like this.  In fact, Sol has invited us to dance Dia de Los Muertos with them.  You know I want to do that!  Read more on that holiday on week 30.  For more information on Images, read week 21.  For more on Sol, read week 16.

That's it!  All done!  See you next week!  Wedo out!  Have a good one!

Contact Information for "The Big Wedo":

Google E-mail:
Facebook: One Big Wedo (Guero)
Twitter: Michael Smith @onebigwedo

Contact Information for Ballet Folklorico de Herencia Mexicana:

Richard Solorzano, Director: (909) 201-1957
Facebook: Herencia Mexicana

Note: Looking for your own adventure or journey? Herencia is a great place to find one!  Folklorico lessons and performances are both available. Herencia Mexicana performs for private & public events of all kinds. Book your event today! Herencia Mexicana welcomes new students. No previous folklorico or dance experience required.  All are welcome.


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