Fiesta Amigos 2013


State Secretary of Tourism Francisco Córdova, Greg and Dianne from VidaMaz, Governor Malova, Mayor Higuera, and El Cid’s Carlos Berdegue.

As always, the annual tourist industry event—La Gran Fiesta Amigos de Mazatlán—has been a spectacular success. A bit warm and humid outdoors last night for this time of year, but those attending from throughout Mexico, Canada and the States didn’t mind it one bit. The event this year was 70% smaller than it was last year, primarily because they are gearing up for the big 20th anniversary next year. We actually really liked the smaller size—much easier to get to know people, and I imagine it’s more realistic to cook gourmet food for a smaller group (about 250, I’d guess).

The Fiesta Amigos 2013 opening cocktail reception was Monday evening at the Luna Palace. I have never before attended a special event there. The place was beautifully decorated and very welcoming, and the service was impeccable. Photos below; click on one to enlarge or view a slideshow.

Tour operators, travel agents, airline officials, hotel and hospitality officials spent all day Tuesday at our gorgeous convention center in meetings. Then, last night was the gala dinner at Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay. We had cocktails on the lawn while a sax players serenaded us. After brief comments by the governor, we went up some stairs to dine on the rooftop overlooking the ocean. The decorations were stunning, and the food was unbelievably good. I think I could eat that soup (squash blossom and mussel) every day for a month! Photos below; click on one to enlarge or view a slideshow.

The highlight of the event is the presentation of the “Golden Deer” Awards. This year’s winners included Delta Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Expedia, Best Day (Mexican online travel agent), our new friends Estur (national tour operators)—for the third consecutive year. A new award this year was for convention organizers, and the inaugural award in that category went to Mark Rogers. The major award, “Amigo de Mazatlán,” was given to Don Guillermo Bernal Valdez, for his over 40 years of intense promotion of our port. Due to health issues Don Guillermo could not be present; the award was accepted by his three children. Photos below; click on one to enlarge or view a slideshow.

Governor Malova and Mayor Higuera attended last night’s gala. Giving out the awards were Carlos Berdeque Sacristán and Gaspar Pruneda, Vice-Presidents of the Hotel and Tourist Business Association; Francisco Córdova Celaya, State Secretary of Tourism; and Sergio Rómero, standing in for Mayor Higuera who had departed with the governor before the awards were given.

There was a whole lot of excitement in the air, and lots of talk about the new highway to Durango and the Puente Baluarte. Huge kudos to the Mazatlán Hotel Association, Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay,  Luna Palace, and the Convention Center for such a huge success!

18th Annual “Golden Deer” Awards

Last night at a beautiful gala dinner, quite a few of us were feted with special recognition for contributions to the Mazatlán community. We were delighted with two glorious evenings of celebration—lots of eye candy, good food and drink, music and dance. I felt so privileged to be acknowledged in this way by our neighbors, and it was also incredibly humbling.

Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, COO of Mexico Tourism Board, Oralia Rice, Sinaloa State Secretary of Tourism, Dianne Hofner Saphiere of, and the President of the Mazatlán Hotel Association

I was told I received the award because of the work that Greg and I have done with this blog over the years, helping families to navigate Mazatlán, because of the various videos we’ve created and in which we’ve appeared, plus the Mazatlán YouTube channel we created.

All I can say is, it has been a labor of love. We are so fortunate to live in this gorgeous city, surrounded by so many big-hearted, open-minded friends and neighbors. We are merely living our lives and sharing a bit of it with others in hopes it might be of aid or interest. Thank you for including us, Mazatlecos queridos, and helping us feel at home here!

Mazatlán has a lengthy history of foreign residents, making this a traditionally multicultural community. Joining the indigenous inhabitants of the area came of course Spaniards, then Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Germans, and French, and more recently Canadians and US-Americans. We are fortunate in this small city to also have friends who are Belgian, Dutch, Vietnamese and Quebecois. We delight in living in Mazatlán because it has such natural beauty, is a real, functioning city with a variety of industries (shrimping, tuna and other fishing, agriculture, coffee, beer, etc., in addition to tourism), and also because of its rich multicultural tradition.

Most humbling to me in receiving this recognition was to be included in a group with such incredibly devoted, passionate people. One such honoree was the  Zorros de Sinaloa, the local amputee soccer team (founded by Don Benett, award received by coach Berc Zorraian). They are SUCH an amazing group, and last night it was announced that they will be bringing the WORLD CUP of amputee soccer to Mazatlán! Such a powerful, constructive contribution to our community, and to inclusiveness and respect in our world!

Another well deserving honoree was Arnie Garcia, who since 1989 has volunteered to teach chess to local school kids, bringing the international chess championship tournament as well as chess masters from around the world to Mazatlán. What passion and perseverance. We are so blessed to have such people in our community.

There were quite a few groups of people recognized for their selfless, volunteer contributions to the community, including Friends of Mexico (received by President Steven Backman), Mazatlán Tourist Aide Volunteers (received by Peter Larson), Vecinos con Cariño (received by Rudy Villalobos and Arlene Johnson), and La Viña church (received by Gail Villalobos). Another individual honoree was Glen Rogers, who started our beloved Art Walk and nearly on an annual basis seems to have a new idea for cross-pollinating the US and Mexican art scenes. We are truly blessed with a hard-working community here, in which locals and foreigners alike join together to better how we all live.

Other recipients last night included those in communication, such as Mike Veselik, who has operated the Pacific Pearl for something like 22 years; Janet Blaser, publisher of the beautiful M! Magazine; Mazatlán Life (Sheila Madsen); Mazatlán MyCity (Simon Lynds); and blogger Nancy Dardarian (Countdown to Mexico). All of them have made huge contributions to our local community in their unique ways. And, we know so many people who were not recognized who have also made huge contributions. Fortunately La Gran Fiesta de Amigos de Mazatlán is an annual event, and this is its 18th year.

Thank you very much, Mazatlán Hotel Association. We love living here, we write our family truth honestly and from the heart. If in some small way it contributes to building a stronger community, we are very, very pleased.

The Golden Deer awards (different from the recognition we received, though given out at the same event) are given out to tourism industry professionals, including airlines, tour operators and reporters. One of them was awarded posthumously to Jackie Peterson and accepted by Mike from Pacific Pearl, where she was a writer for many years. Another very noteworthy Golden Deer, for me, went to our gorgeous Mazatlán International Center, which has transformed our city’s convention and meeting offerings in important ways.

Hearty congratulations and thanks to all recipients, and all who love Mazatlán.

¡Viva Mazatlán!