Heather Hall received her first Fiesta medal when she was in the first grade. King Antonio himself presented it to her as an award for an art project. “I still have it,” says the 43-year-old Hall. What beads are to Mardi Gras, medals are to Fiesta. Hall and her father have been producing these collectibles since 1984 when her father opened the Heart of Texas Promotional Products company. In fact, it was Hall’s father, himself a retired military man, who was responsible for the first military Fiesta medal. “The military wanted to give a Fiesta gift to people who came to the base,” explains Hall. “My dad suggested the military-style medal with the medallion and ribbon.”
As the medals grew in popularity, so did the demand for more elaborate designs, especially in the last 15 years. Medals shaped like buildings, medals designed to replicate the royal gowns or the Fiesta posters, and even medals with moving parts are all the rage. “Last year’s NIOSA medal featured dancers that slid across the Arneson Theatre,” explains Hall. This year, Hall says that the designs are resplendent with bling and custom-colored ribbons. “There are lots of jewels and rhinestones this year,” she says. Since opening their doors, Heart of Texas and fiestamedals.com produces more than 100,000 medals annually for individuals, nonprofits, groups, businesses and anyone else who wants one. “Anyone can be involved now, even if they are not an official part of Fiesta,” says Hall, adding that the last two years have seen an increase in requests for personal medals and medals for private parties. Of course, the easiest way to get a medal is to have a medal to trade. Hall, who has been collecting since that day in the first grade, says that it is the perceived value that people love. “When the designs began changing every year, that’s when they really became collectibles,” she says. And as for that medal from King Antonio that Hall received all those years ago? That one‘s not up for trade!