There once was a time---and not that long ago---that the State Fair reflected little to nothing of Pueblo’s historic Latino population, despite the city’s historic Latino legacy. But the late Henry Reyes had a hand in changing things and today, as the fuse on Fiesta Day prepares to be lit on the Fair with the annual Noche de Fiesta celebration on tap, no doubt a toast or two will be raised to this Pueblo legend.
“This is our main fundraiser,” said Ivan Reyes, son of the legendary Pueblo politician and media mover and shaker. Reyes was one of the first Latino politicians in the city. He served on City Council and, as President of the Council, also held the honorary title of Mayor for a short time. He was also a well-known voice on Spanish language radio. In addition to his other jobs, Reyes also ‘spun the discs’ as a personality on radio station KAPI, the dominant Spanish language radio station in southern Colorado.
Today, Fiesta Day, now in its 52nd year, is one of the crown jewels of the State Fair, Pueblo’s biggest summertime getaway. Crowds often exceed 100,000 as locals and visitors from all across Colorado and northern New Mexico celebrate the last day of the Fair. This week’s Noche de Fiesta gala is now considered the “unofficial kickoff to the Fair,” said Reyes.
Noche de Fiesta is set for 5:00 p.m. August 3rd at the Colorado Pavilion on the grounds of the State Fair. Al Hurricane, Jr., son of the late Al Hurricane, often referred to as ‘the Godfather of New Mexican music,’ will be performing. Divino, another New Mexico band, will also be performing.
While the party will lay the groundwork for the Fair, which begins August 23rd, the most important reason for holding it is to raise scholarship funds for the Fiesta Queen and her court. Reyes is expecting attendance of at least 500 for ‘Noche.’ Money raised from admissions and the silent auction all goes to scholarship. “It would be nice to raise $5,000.”
Fiesta Day at the Fair is preceded with its celebratory parade. The parade route “runs through Bessemer,” said Reyes, and passes along Abriendo, Buelah and Northern Avenues. “It’s a new energy and everyone gets excited,” said the Pueblo businessman. “We get great support from the county commissioners, city council and the community at large.” Reyes said Fiesta organizers are hopeful the parade sets the perfect tone for the day. “We’re hoping to get a hundred entries. Some years we’ve fallen short but others we’ve gone over.” Applications are still being accepted at the Latino Chamber of Commerce but must be submitted no later than August 3rd.
Serving as Grand Marshall of the Parade will be Huberto Maestas, the San Luis Valley artist known for creating the iconic Stations of the Cross in San Luis, Colorado. Honorary Marshal is long-time Pueblo educator, Leroy Martinez. Martinez taught and coached at Risley Junior High and Pueblo East High. The retired educator also served as principal at Risley. The theme for this year’s parade is ‘Abrazando La Diversidad de Nuestra Cultura, (Celebrating the Diversity of our Culture).
As preparations for Noche de Fiesta are finalized, Reyes said he has thought a lot about his late father and the effort he put into weaving the region’s Latino history into the fabric of the Fair. “I just think he would be so proud and honored,” he said. “Fiesta is one of my motivating reasons” for being involved. “I can celebrate this beautiful culture, promote it in a positive way and think that was a lot of my Dad’s motivation in the sixties. He went about things in the right way.”