But while many of us have the Fiesta, always the weekend after Memorial Day, plugged into our mental calendars, there are a few dozen volunteer workers who are ratcheting up their time commitments to pull off another busy celebration that has put Patterson on the map every year since 1971.
It doesn’t happen without dedication, commitment of time, and a lot of hard work. Yet many of these volunteers return year after year and have given the Fiesta the strength of continuity.
Richard Greer is one. He’s served as the celebration’s general chairman since 2000. He’s been on its board of directors since 1994 – a 20-year run.
Rich started with the Fiesta in 1989, working in the Pepsi booth. He remembers he wanted to help in the community when his family moved to Patterson, adding, “I liked the small town feeling.”
Apparently he still does, for he’s still devoting his time and leadership 25 years later.
The Fiesta, a non-profit organization, is operated by a board of directors, a group that remains mostly out of the public’s eye. Nearly $200,000 ran through its bank account in 2013, and a similar total is expected this year. The Fiesta certainly is no peanut operation.
Serving as its president again this year is Jeff Essex. He started helping in the beer booth in 1998 and has chaired or co-chaired the booth since 2000. Beer sales netted a profit of over $32,000 last year, nearly equal to that of income from craft booths.
Essex served as corporate secretary for two years, then vice president for a year, and president the past four years.
FAMILY HEAVILY INVOLVED
Greer’s family is heavily involved. His daughter Kristen is the Fiesta board’s vice president. She has been on the board 11 years, has chaired the Fiesta booth for 12 and has been on the queen pageant committee for nearly as long.
Kristen actually started her Fiesta activities when she was a 2-year-old, accompanying her parents while they worked in the soft drink booth. She also was crowned Miss Patterson in 2000.
Her mother Teresa Valentine has been a board member for nearly as long and has coordinated the pageant since 2002. She also has chaired the soft drink booth for over 20 years.
But in addition to the Greer-Valentine family, numerous others have logged many years of volunteerism.
Karen Willard has been a board member since 2004 and has been the poetry and prose project chairman for 19 years, besides being the entertainment chairman for eight years.
Juanzette Hunter is a five-year board member and had handled the prizes for the queen pageant for 10 years, while serving on its committee the last five. She also serves as the organization’s corporate secretary.
Regina Reid has been a board member since 2010 and has chaired the student arts and crafts show the past six years.
Tonya Hensarling has handled the free speech area for four years and has been a board member since 2012.
Jaclyn Camara had headed the craft and commercial fair the past three years and is in her second year on the board.
John Schali organized a group that brought hay bales to the downtown starting in about 2000. He’s also chairs the fireworks show and is new on the board.
Greer’s youngest daughter Gwendolyn Valentine was also elected last fall. She’s been on the Little Mr. and Miss Apricot and bake contest committees the last five years.
The Fiesta’s secretary and its only paid member whose job this time of year becomes full-time is Marilyn Hoobler. She started in the position in 1984, took several years off, and has served the organization continuously since 1989. Hoobler staffs the Fiesta’s downtown office and is the “face” seen by many who participate in its activities.
IT’S FAMILY ORIENTED
In his position as general chairman, Greer has emphasized that Patterson’s annual celebration is “our party.” Yet he stresses that behind the scenes, it must run as a business.
“The Fiesta promotes the city and we want to keep it family-oriented,” he said in a recent interview. Many of its activities are free to the public. He also noted that the Fiesta is non-political and has been operated since 1971 by a committee of volunteers.
But Greer also pointed out how the Fiesta has changed over the years. He noted that all organizations and businesses selling items, including the craft booths, must have business licenses, creating what he called a “paperwork nightmare” for the Fiesta, which must collect the fees.
Some popular events, including the hot air balloons and the bicycle races of many years ago, had to be eliminated from the Fiesta’s agenda for insurance reasons. The insurance cost rose to nearly $12,000 this past year and is expected to increase again, Greer noted.
The fireworks display is another major cost to the Fiesta. That ran to $11,600 last year, the expense offset by donations of only $1,155. Insurance for the fireworks continues to increase.
A number of businesses sign on as “major sponsors,” bringing in $26,000 this past year and enabling the Fiesta to run over $7,000 in the black in 2013.
But it operated in the red the previous year when the weather cut into income.
Costs of security also have risen in recent years, although the city of Patterson has pitched in to subsidize those increases. Greer pointed out that the local deputies “went above and beyond” in 2013, with some volunteering their time after their shifts had ended.
Over the years, many Pattersonites – too many to mention here – have worked long and hard on the annual celebration. And it has been this volunteerism that has allowed the celebration to grow into one of the best small-town events in the valley.
Ron Swift is the editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.