After all the craft sales, beer sipping and classic rock dancing, organizers of the Fiesta de Artes festival announced that they had successfully funded another year of Turnaround Scholarships.

And while sponsorships dipped from previous years, quick action by volunteers resulted in a big increase in on-site sales, which made up for the shortfall, according to Nancy Pearson, local Kiwanis chapter president.

“It was exhausting, but it was totally worth it,” she said. “It’s so important to continue that program.”

At this year’s two-day event, held Sept. 18-19 at the Civic Center lawn, attendees sipped 50 cases of wine, up from 30 in 2019, the last time it was held in person.

It was a scramble though, to make that happen.

Dance your heart out. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

By Sunday morning the Kiwanis had sold 30 cases of Testarossa wine, but there were still plenty of thirsty revelers en route to the event, which featured musical acts such as the Joint Chiefs, Tsunami, RPM Band and First Call.

So Pearson headed up College Avenue to wrangle some more.

Around 11am, when she arrived, it was still closed. Luckily she found a man on site who could let her in.

“We need more wine!” she said.

“Follow me,” he replied. “I’ll find someone.”

He took her to a manager who helped rustle up another 14 cases.

It was the same story with the beverage containers.

Organizers ran out of an initial allotment of 1,200 glasses in relatively short order. So, it was off to Smart & Final to grab 500 more cups.

Soon enough, those were gone, too.

Luckily, Kiwanians were able to unearth a trove of unused glasses from 2015, kept in a club storage area.

And when they exhausted the sparkling wine, Rootstock Wine Cellar was able to come through with additional bubbly.

Rockin’ and rollin. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Former mayor Joseph Pirzynski, a Kiwanis member, explained the Fiesta’s significance to the organization.

“This is how we make the money to provide for some of the services we give for youth support,” he said, adding they weren’t able to do it last year due to the pandemic. “It’s our big event for the year.”

Angele Price had her hands full all weekend as the volunteer coordinator.

“There’s probably at least 40 volunteers,” she said, explaining why she was happy to take on that responsibility. “It’s our main fundraiser for our Turnaround Scholarship award that Kiwanis provides to 10 students.”

These are given to Los Gatos and Saratoga high school students who have faced struggles, but have worked hard to make it out the other side. Past recipients have battled cancer, or taken steps to move past experiences where they’d fallen in with the wrong crowd.

The local Kiwanis club budgets $20,000 for the $1,500 awards.

Last year, they were only able to give out five, due to Covid-19-related funding issues.

Price says she even knows someone who was struggling with challenges in her home life, but ended up achieving big things in life, after getting the Turnaround Scholarship.

“She went on to college and work successfully at Tesla,” she said. “I would say that turned her life around.”

During a speech at the event, 28th District Assemblymember Evan Low said he was excited he could experience the magic of Fiesta.

Birthday girl. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

“I served as treasurer for the Almaden Valley Kiwanis Club back in 2003,” he said from the stage. “It’s good to be with family again.”

San Jose resident Marilyn Chamberlin was celebrating her 75th birthday at the event Saturday.

“It’s really nice,” she said, noting she was there for the arts and crafts, as well as the wine. “In fact, my brother’s here for his 50th high school reunion.”

John Cunanan, 59, who also came from San Jose, was taking his 8-month-old dog Terra out for a walk through the event.

“It’s well-needed,” he said. “It’s been too long.”

Kiwanis president-elect Susan Monahan was pouring wine, even though she was still recovering from surgery.

John Cunanan and 8-month-old Terra stroll through the Fiesta grounds. (Photo by Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Catalina Dassler, 46, and Vladimir Petrochenko, 44, listened to Lungala Rubadiri explain the Ugandan folk stories he spun about his cousin’s paintings for sale at the Nzalamba Artworks booth.

“It just feels a little more normal today,” Dassler said.

Although the final tally has not been completed, organizers said they definitely raised at least $20,000 to fund the scholarships, and may have even raised $30,000.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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