Since 1998, “Fiesta in America,” touted to be a major cultural and marketing exposition of Philippine products in the US, has been linking Filipino-American entrepreneurs with customers from the east coast. Its founder and Chief Executive Officer Fernando Mendez was recently in Manila to show Philippine-based businessmen how they can get a foothold on that side of the world. There is evidence to show that it can be done: in last year’s event, small exporters from Vigan to General Santos City flew in to exhibit and sell their products.
The two-day 2019 fiesta, which will take place from August 10 to 11 at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, is expected to attract 5,000 attendees. According to Mendez, 90 percent of them would be Fil-Ams coming from other US states such as New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia. With a median family income of more than $92,400 a year, they do have considerable purchasing power and can probably outshop other US-based families who, regardless of race, only have an annual median family income of $65,910.
A huge chunk of them are immigrants who visit the fiesta because “they are nostalgic for anything Filipino,” says Mendez. “Philippine handicrafts get sold out easily. Travel or tourism exhibits at Fiesta have always been huge crowd drawers. Food products are also big sellers.” About 150 booths line up inside the pavilion to show their wares.
He disclosed that his other reason for his Manila trip, “We look forward to getting support and backing from the Philippine government, so our attendees can see how our products are of world-class quality.”
That desire to reconnect with their Filipino roots elevates the fiesta to more than just another ethnic trade show. Mendez, a Filipino advertising professional who became a US citizen 19 years ago, is well aware of the cultural elements that can tug at his countrymen’s heartstrings. A Santacruzan celebration draws in the crowd during the day, while Fil-Am and American talents enliven the evening with their evening performances. Underneath all the festivities is a drive to boost economic expansion. Mendez says, “Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to learn from free small business workshops, including Philippine franchising opportunities that we are offering this year for investors and those nearing retirement.”
While Mendez has no immediate plans of holding his fiesta in his homeland in the foreseeable future, he does intend to take it outside New Jersey and the east coast to other American cities. There are at least 4 million Americans who might want a touch of home, and are willing to pay for products that remind them of it. As Mendez puts it, “It’s a fun event for all ages. People enjoy coming to the event because they feel like they’re back in the Philippines. They get to experience the Philippines in the US.”
For more details, visit www. fiestainamerica.com or email: [email protected]