Frontier Fiesta remains a flourishing campus tradition
Frontier Fiesta, UH’s student-led spring festival, is coming back to campus from March 19-21. The event is a University-wide tradition that dates back to 1939 and includes musical performances, a carnival, a cook-off and more.
The first Frontier Fiesta, created by a group of students, was quickly discontinued due to World War II. In 1947, it returned thanks to student leader Johnny Goyen’s efforts, who later moved on to become a Houston City Councilman. Most recently, Frontier Fiesta was revamped in 1992 after being discontinued by former UH President A.D. Bruce in 1959.
Frontier Fiesta is comprised of student organizations and individuals coming together to establish Fiesta City, the area of campus where the event is hosted. This year, Frontier Fiesta will be located in Zone F, in Lots A and B near TDECU Stadium.
The carnival booths are a place for student organizations to showcase themselves through the activities they put on. There will be five carnival rides, including the addition of a slide for children and adults. Beyond entertainment, Frontier Fiesta also has a store that sells event merchandise for visitors.
Frontier Fiesta hosts a “world-class cook-off” where teams can compete in six different categories, and potentially win a cash prize in the beef brisket category. Cook-off categories include chef’s choice, chili, fajitas, chicken, pork spare ribs and beef brisket.
This year, Frontier Fiesta will include Step Show, a collaboration with the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life. Step Show allows Greek organizations to perform their rhythmic talents in a competition for a $1,000 prize.
“We’ve done a step show in the past, but it’s not something that is done annually,” said Frontier Fiesta Chair Jordan Hart. “We’re going to bring it back this year with the hopes that it’ll spark a more annual event. That’s the only thing you can hope for.”
Fraternities and sororities have historically been active in Frontier Fiesta, participating in Frontier Fiesta traditions like Variety Shows. In 1948, the Joe Koppel Award for Variety Shows was awarded to the fraternity now called Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
While fraternity and sororities often come out strong to celebrate Frontier Fiesta in years past, the festival is open to both students and the general public.
“Frontier Fiesta doesn’t turn anyone away,” Hart said. “There’s not a specific kind of student we’re for. We’re for the students. Greek organizations might take a special interest in Frontier Fiesta. They might take it more serious than other students but Fiesta, on our part, is for all students.”
As an event that was once named “The Greatest College Show on Earth” by Life Magazine, Frontier Fiesta wants to showcase the talents of students.
“We’re creating an event where any typical UH student can come and feel welcome,” Hart said.
Throughout the decades that Frontier Fiesta has existed, changes to the social and political climate nationally have had an impact on how Frontier Fiesta has been perceived.
Over the years, Frontier Fiesta has maintained its Western-themed appearance but has adapted to appeal to the University’s current students. Recently, hip-hop artist A$AP Ferg was one of the musical performers at the festival.
“We don’t necessarily have the most Western things going on,” Hart said. “You may see some signage and some backdrops that are more Western-themed, but I don’t think it’s something that drives the central point of Frontier Fiesta.”
A portion of Frontier Fiesta is put together by their student board each year. Some board members are hired months in advance to organize and plan Frontier Fiesta for the student body.
“The point of it is to bring a show like no other to our college campus,” Hart said.