‘The greatest college show on Earth’ returns to campus
Frontier Fiesta — one of the school’s oldest traditions — and it’s unique brand of carnival fun and school spirit, returns to campus Thursday with headliner D.R.A.M. performing Saturday night.
The annual community celebration brings students, staff and alumni together for three days in the spring to raise money for undergraduate scholarships.
“It’s something that happens every year but being able to experience it yet again has been truly remarkable,” said Chairman Christian Kladzyk.
Kladzyk said the Committee has prepared a rousing festival that will include annual staples like variety shows from Greek organizations and the cook-off, including new features the almost 30,000 expected visitors are sure to enjoy.
“I’ve always been really confident in my team,” Kladzyk said. “Fiesta is really an event for everyone.”
The Frontier Fiesta Association works year-round to secure acts and sponsorship for the annual event in March and has been working on site and preparing the carnival for the past weeks.
“We’ve had to overcome obstacles in moving locations from where we were last year,” Kladzyk said. “Whoever has seen the progression knows its a lot of labor, but a lot of fun.”
In a venue change from last year’s location in the shadow of TDECU Stadium, Fiesta will be held in the surface parking lot on University Drive and Calhoun Road, between the East Garage and the Baptist Student Ministry.
Headliner D.R.A.M., best known for his collaboration on the 2016 song “Broccoli,” performs at the Bud Light stage Sunday night, closing out Fiesta.
With the University’s recent triumphs in athletics and academics, Kladzyk, who was last year’s director of performance, said he wanted to find an artist who represents the “grind to the top.”
“I always wanna get someone who represents the rise of the University of Houston,” Kladzyk said. “He’s going to be something big.”
New-to-Fiesta features include new carnival rides and works from artists around the city in the form of murals.
Founded in 1939, Frontier Fiesta’s list of student leader alumni includes Welcome Wilson Sr., Jack Valenti and country singer Kenny Rogers. The carnival was profiled in Life Magazine in 1958 and dubbed “The Greatest College Show on Earth.”
In its heyday in the 1950s, the event attracted up to 200,000 visitors a year and was so widely participated that the University cancelled classes the week before Fiesta every year to allow the student body to prepare.
Fiesta was put on hiatus during World War II and due to academic sanctions imposed by then-university president Clanton Williams, it was cancelled from 1959 to 1991.
Then-vice president for advancement, David Keith, spearheaded the effort to bring back Fiesta in 1991, supplying the food himself and bringing in alumni and community members to provide food and entertainment.
“Everyone I’ve talked to is really excited,” Kladzyk said. “This year’s Fiesta is going to be a lot of fun.”