One of University of Houston’s greatest traditions is the annual Frontier Fiesta, a three-day event filled with delicious food, hypnotic music, variety shows, a step, carnival, and numerous games. An event of this magnitude wouldn’t be possible without the help of those who work behind the scenes. Since 1996, several members of the Residence Life & Housing Maintenance department (now Plant Operations Residential Maintenance) have been instrumental in the look and feel of the event through setting up carnival booths for the Courthouse & Frontier Fiesta Museum, Cougar Casino, and the Side Saddle.
For approximately one and a half weeks, ten RLH staff members (including Craig Brodd, Esteban Mendoza, and Jim White) assemble and secure modular panels. The panels, which are stored in a warehouse near Schlumberger, are transported to the Frontier Fiesta site by a sixteen foot trailer. The carnival booth areas are typically ADA compliant, and are secured by several fifty gallon water pitchers, and an A frame which provides support and keeps the walls from blowing down.
The guys are accustomed to the meticulous work involved with assembling the fronts and describe the process as being similar to putting together a puzzle. Mendoza said his main concern is “trying to keep people from getting hurt.” Safety is critically important and the UH fire Marshall must first inspect the carnival booths and give its stamp of approval.
"A lot of times when you work behind the scenes, the works seems unnoticed, but with Frontier Fiesta, we have the pleasure of seeing and being part of the end result," said Carlos Villarreal, director of Residential Maintenance.
Fun Facts About Frontier Fiesta:
- Frontier Fiesta was founded in 1940 and discontinued during World War II; it resumed in 1947 until 1958 and rebirthed/modernized in 1992.
- In 1958, then UH president Clanton Williams ruled that only full-time university students with a minimum 2.0 GPA could participate.
- In 1992, David Keith, VP for External Relations, barbecued on his home pit and transported the food to campus.
- In the past, a Teta Native American tribe traveled to Frontier Fiesta and had an official powwow.
- Years ago, the fronts used to be twenty feet tall, but were later reduced by four feet for time and safety reasons.
- In 2005, rapper T.I. performed and attracted a large crowd.