Initial estimates suggest 13,000 in attendance at this year's festival; entertainment, food major draws

Though the final dollars and cents won’t be known for a few weeks yet, the 2014 Woodburn Fiesta Mexicana, presented by Country Financial, is now behind us, and early accounts are that it was an unqualified success.

Harry Lee Kwai, director of the Woodburn Photo Credit: TYLER FRANCKE - Fiesta Mexicana 2014 went off without a hitch, according to the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce.Area Chamber of Commerce, which is the lead organizer of Fiesta, said that initial estimates based on ticket sales put attendance of this year’s event at around 13,000.

If those estimates are born out, that would represent a jump of about 1,000 over last year’s attendance and the early projections for this year’s.

It would also be especially encouraging for Fiesta organizers, who decided to make this year’s festival a two-day event, rather than beginning on Friday night as it had in years past.

“That’s significant, because usually, we have 1,000 on Friday night alone,” said Woodburn Tourism Coordinator Ruby Wolfer.

Wolfer said that it also appears that Fiesta made a profit this year, with all proceeds planned to be re-invested in next year’s event. A full financial report is expected to be delivered to the Woodburn City Council in September.

To Lee Kwai, for whom this was his first Fiesta as executive director of the chamber, the numbers are less important than the community impact.

“It’s a community event — that’s what it’s really all about," he said. “It has a long history, a long tradition, and we want to keep it alive. As long as people think it’s worthwhile and want to attend, we’ll keep it going.”

Lee Kwai and Wolfer said the event brings people at least as far north as Vancouver, Wash., and as far south as Eugene, especially from the Latino community, drawn by the authenticity of Hispanic food and culture on display.

“They say, ‘This is our food, our language, our music,’” Lee Kwai said.

The entertainment aspect of the festival is a major appeal, they added. The inclusion of Latin Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Michael Salgado was a huge hit.

“He was fantastic,” he said.

Wolfer said Salgado’s performance on the main stage Saturday night drew at least 2,800.

“I think that’s just outstanding for any local concert,” Lee Kwai said.

Wolfer said the caliber of the entertainment Fiesta organizers targeted this year was higher than in previous incarnations, and that’s something they plan to continue. This year’s slate of musical acts had also included La Mar-K De Terra Caliente, Grupo Ruta Libre and La Potencía De Mexico.

The security checkpoint at the entrance gate seemed to run more smoothly this year, apparently based less on substantive changes than on a deliberate effort to improve people’s perceptions.

“We had First Alert (Fiesta’s security contractor) go to polo shirts at the gate, rather than their full uniforms,” Wolfer said. “And we asked them to smile at everyone. The perception was a lot more positive.”

Lee Kwai said one thing several attendees mentioned that they would like to see next year is rides and other festival-style games and activities.

A carnival that had been planned for this year’s Fiesta was canceled when the contractor pulled out because of a schedule conflict and a replacement could not be brought on board in time.

Wolfer said she’s made contact with a company for next year that specializes in midway attractions — “like what you’d see at the county fair,” she said.

Other than a bee sting, there were no injuries reported, and no accidents or other problems either, Lee Kwai said.

His favorite part of Fiesta? The parade, which ran a bit longer this year thanks to an earlier start time.

“It was the best locally produced parade I’d ever seen, for a town this size,” he said. “It was terrific.”

Wolfer agreed, saying, “I think it was just a great year.”

Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.

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