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Surprise Fiesta Grande: More than just a festival

By Surprise Mayor Sharon Wolcott

I had so much fun visiting with many residents and visitors at the city’s first-ever Surprise Fiesta Grande that was recently held in our historic Original Town Site. It was a terrific event!

While we designed the event to bring together citizens to celebrate the city’s heritage, as well as showcase the potential for a revitalized Grand Avenue, Surprise Fiesta Grande was much more than just a party. For me, the festival presented a great opportunity to connect with an emerging economic development partner south of the border.

Did you know that Mexico is Arizona’s top trading partner, and that visitors from Mexico spend more than $5 million each day in Arizona?

Tens of thousands of jobs in our state rely on trade with Mexico. But, while surrounding states are increasing trade with our neighbors to the south, Arizona’s growth remains stagnant.

To help reverse this disturbing trend, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), an organization in which I serve as a board member, recently signed an agreement with government officials in Sonora, Mexico to create the Arizona-Sonora Binational Megaregion.

With the agreement signed, I traveled with other MAG board members, elected officials and business leaders from Arizona last April to participate in the Third Binational Forum. It was the second forum held in Sonora. While there, I had the chance to re-establish my professional relationship with Nogales, Sonora Mayor Ramon Guzman since he traveled to the Valley last year.

In my previous visit with Mayor Guzman, he offered to assist in launching the city’s inaugural Surprise Fiesta Grande by providing his folklorica dancers and mariachi bands for the ultimate cross-border festival experience. This also provided Mayor Guzman and I the opportunity to further build upon MAG’s concept of a “megaregion.”

The Friday before our inaugural festival, I had the honor of hosting the Mayor Guzman and a nine-member group of economic development and tourism officials from Nogales to showcase some of our city’s and region’s economic development assets.

Together, along with Councilman Todd Tande, a board member from the Surprise Chamber of Commerce and senior manager’s from the city, we visited the city’s Southwest Railplex Business Park. While at the business park, we conducted site tours of the Gestamp Solar Steel and Southwest Products facilities.

These are two very successful businesses doing amazing things in our hometown. It was great to see our Gestamp partners from Spain conversing with our potential economic development partners in their native tongue. By learning about the success stories of our businesses, the Mexican visitors walked away not only impressed, but inspired with new ideas that can support these companies and attract new ones.

Finally, we traveled to University of Phoenix Stadium, home to our beloved Cardinals! This “wow factor” of this behind-the-scenes tour was the perfect way to showcase the West Valley to these top political, economic and tourism officials from Mexico.

Enhancing my professional relationship with Mayor Guzman and his delegates, as well as continuing my commitment to bring jobs and tourism opportunities to Surprise, was at the center of this trip. It was an honor for me to welcome the delegation to our city for the first-time ever and showcase Surprise in the “grandest” fashion.

I’m also pleased Mayor Guzman’s delegates were able to enjoy Surprise Fiesta Grande, where we were all entertained by so many dynamic performers from Nogales, Sonora, who shared the stage with our own local artists.

It was a perfect way to blend our traditions and ignite our commitment to future successful business ventures.