Slow start for Frontier Fiesta, but attendance and future look good

Nazish Siddiqui

Staff Writer

Frontier Fiesta opened Wednesday evening to a crowd of 1,500 people.

Event representatives said they were surprised by the large turnout, considering that the event opened in the middle of the week and that there were no live performances.

An oversight by someone delayed opening performances for a short time.

"All the lighting was set to go for the opening, but at opening time when the power was switched on the lights failed to come on," said Doug Miller, advisor for Campus Activities. "Someone forgot to put in the light bulbs."

The problem was easily solved, however, and the show went on.

Opening night focused mainly on two variety shows, one put on by a fraternity and the other by a sorority. Variety shows have become a tradition closely linked to the history of Frontier Fiesta.

Frontier Fiesta originated in 1941 as a National Bingo Tournament. In its successive years, the bingo was phased out and variety shows became the center of the event.

According to Miller, who has been working with Frontier Fiesta since 1992, the festival was at one time bigger than the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

After Life magazine honored it as "the greatest college show on earth" in 1958, however, the show was shut down.

"The university had no management growth plan to handle that large an audience and capacity," Miller said. "That was an instrumental reason for its shutdown in 1958."

Students were also scorned for skipping classes to work on and participate in Frontier Fiesta.

Many efforts were made in order to bring the event back to life, but none were successful until the 1990s when a coalition of students and alumni backed by the UH athletics department brought interest back to the festival.

Students/alumni Pat Brown, Jay Dorsey and Rusty Hruska worked closely with the athletics department to bring people back to the university and to UH sports and activities. It was due to their efforts that Frontier Fiesta was revived.

In its comeback year, the total turn out was 1,500 people, and it was thought to be the death of the party. But with perseverance and long-term planning, Frontier Fiesta has once again gained city-wide recognition. Event organizers called 1997 its best year ever, with a turnout of 30,000 during the three-day event.

The event has grabbed the attention of the media outside campus, with radio stations 93Q Country and 98 KQQK doing live broadcasts from the midway this year.

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