Everybody has a story about their experience at this year’s Extravaganza. Here is Norm’s. Norman A. “Norm” Rodríguez has attended every single Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza except for one!!! Here are his answers to our questionnaire:
How did this year’s event compare to previous Extravaganzas?
Last year was great, but this year was even better. All of the Extravaganzas have been great, but they just keep getting better and better each year. There were so many great singers, especially among the girls. I think the girls outdid the boys in the vocal competition, but I really like the guy who sang Granada (William “Carlton” Gálvez) during the group competition (College/University level – San Antonio College).
What was your favorite part of the Extravaganza?
I liked all of the events, but the vocal competition was my favorite. I was sitting with Alexandra Dorantes and her parents during the competition. She sang one of my favorite songs, Cucurrucucú Paloma. I was so proud of her that I gave her a little gift after her performance — a necklace with a seashell. I also had a little gift for Victoria Rosa, because last year I sat with her family. Alexandra and Victoria are my two favorite singers. There were a lot of really nice, friendly people at the competitions and some of them even remembered my name!
Norm with Alexandra Dorantes, second-place winner in this year’s high school-level Extravaganza vocal competition.
What was new for you this year?
The high school finals. That was surprising, and I really enjoyed it. There were six groups competing, and they were all fantastic. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a judge for that event for anything! They’re really like pros. Some of my friends who had gone for the very first time said, “Gosh, they’re professionals!” I also enjoyed watching Vanessa emcee the high school finals and I loved hearing her sing Los Laureles.
What surprised you most about this year’s event?
Well, it was no surprise that Roma won. They’re really great, but those Las Vegas groups are coming up really strong and it’s nice to see them at a truly competitive level now. I was also surprised (happily) to see that Alexandra Dorantes won second place in the high school vocals. Her parents were so proud.
Was this your first time volunteering for the Extravaganza?
Yes, it was. I go every year because I want to listen to the music, but I wanted to get more involved in the event this year. I really enjoyed the Serenata en el Río. It was a beautiful evening, and it was nice to see everyone enjoying themselves. I was making sure that people weren’t interrupting the performances during the competitions, so I was at the doors, opening them and closing them in between performances. People were trying to pull the doors open, but I had to ask them to please respect the groups during their performances and cue them when it was an appropriate time for them to walk in.
Did you like volunteering?
Yes, I did, and I would love to do it again. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine asked me if you need more volunteers, because he would also like to volunteer next year. I really want to do it again for all of the events. I love mariachi music, and I just can’t get enough. I grew up with this music — listening to Pedro Infante, Javier Solís and Lola Beltrán — and I never get tired of it. I listen to Vicente Fernández every day on 104.1 FM. They have a whole hour of his music starting at 12 noon. I also like to listen to 103.7, because they play a lot of Vikki Carr and Linda Ronstadt. I enjoyed meeting some of the other volunteers, and they were all very nice and friendly.
Norm with Vicente Fernández
What about the concert?
I missed half of the concert because I left my video camera in the Marina Grand parking garage by accident, and didn’t realize it until after I had gotten home following the high school finals. I rushed back, but then had a hard time finding a parking space and checking with the garage to see if someone had turned in my camera. Luckily, someone had returned my camera bag with the camera in it, but the tape was gone. I was so disappointed, because I had videotaped most of the group and vocal competitions, and now those videos are gone. My name was on the tape, and hopefully somebody will return it.
What was one of the highlights for you during the part of the concert you were able to see?
The comedian, “Happy” Guerrero. He was funny. He comes out with all kinds of crazy stuff, and everybody liked him. I enjoyed all of the MCs, including yourself, Cynthia!
I got to meet Arturo Vargas for the first time. I told him how I used to see him on TV when he was younger, and I took photos with him during the competitions. I told him how much I enjoyed watching him hold his notes for so long.
Of course, hearing Mariachi Vargas play — hearing the best of the best — was a highlight for me. I love every song they performed.
How would you describe this event to someone who has never attended?
Whether you understand the music or not, you’ll enjoy this event. Every song tells a story and you can feel it. It’s something everyone has to see at least once in their lifetime. Once you hear it, you’ll be hooked for life. People have no idea what they’re missing. Anyway, I think it’s one of the greatest concerts I’ve seen in the U.S.
Any final comments?
I go to Gonzaba Medical Group near San Antonio College to see my doctor. Before the Extravaganza, I went to the Gonzaba urgency clinic by Bandera because I had muscle spasms and they gave me a shot. I learned that Gonzaba sponsored the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza when I saw the flyers and posters at the clinics. I was really surprised to see that Gonzaba was a sponsor, because I had never seen an organization like this involved in the event over the past 23 years. I was happy to see them sponsoring it, and I mentioned to one of the nurses that I was going to the concert. “You need to go see this event!” I told her. “How is it?” she asked me, and I said, “It’s a life changing experience, something you would really enjoy!”
This is an event I look forward to attending every year. I even take a vacation around this week so I can attend all of the events!”
Mark your calendar now for the 24th annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza: November 11-17, 2018!
Norm currently works for Enterprise Rent-a-Car in San Antonio. He worked for Dee Howard at the airiport for 25 years prior to that. At one time, he was a competitor in charreadas, where he use to ride 2,000 pound bulls and win competitions all over the U.S. and Mexico. He was a Texas champion and U.S. champion for jinete de yegua and jinete de novillo. He also was an expert in paso de la muerte (death-defying switch), where the rider jumps from one horse to another at breakneck speed.