Gloria Figueroa peeked from behind a curtain before stepping onstage, a vision in a sea green quincea?ra dress with its puffy tulle skirt that swayed like ocean waves.
At 13 years old, it's not quite time for Figueroa's quincea?ra. But she got to feel like a princess for a day by modeling the dress for a small crowd at the Mary Agatha Furth Center in Windsor on Sunday.
"I almost cried," said Gloria's mother, Maria Figueroa of Windsor, after her daughter's modeling performance.
The Quincea?ra Expo was organized by BreNotas Magazine, a Latino lifestyle publication based in Santa Rosa. It catered to the teens and their families who are planning the coming-of-age celebration popular on 15th birthdays.
Uriel Brena, CEO if BreNotas Magazine, started the events three years ago when he noticed that many North Bay residents were making trips down to San Jose to shop for the big event. He thought he could fill a niche in the North Bay, with the magazine featuring local vendors and several events per year.
"It's really a growing market," Brena said. "People are spending $25,000 to $30,000. It's the same as a wedding."
Indeed, the expense of caterers, a venue to hold a few hundred friends and a band or a DJ to keep everyone entertained adds up quickly, along with a choreographer who often is hired to drum up dance routines.
A quincea?ra dress alone can range in price from $400 to $7,000, but on average, many people pay around $1,200, Brena said.
To make it happen, members of the extended family often chip in for the cost.
"One uncle brings the cake, the other uncle pays for the limo," Brena said.
Godparents also help with the cost, said Linda Sanchez of Windsor, whose 14-year-old daughter was planning a quincea?ra and modeling in the show.
"It's like planning a wedding — financially, stressfully, the venue, everything," Sanchez said. "It's always been like that. Even in Mexico. It's a really big deal."
Vendors at the show displayed delicate flower arrangements, fine table settings, artfully decorated cupcakes and sparkly tiaras. Grupo M.O de Mexico, a Santa Rosa band, serenaded the crowd as the girls — almost young women — modeled brightly covered gowns made by Gabriella Alfaro, a designer from Guadalajara, Mexico.
The young women began the day-long process of curling their hair, perfecting makeup, tying up corsets to fit just right and smoothing on moisturizer to make their skin glow at 7 a.m. on Sunday, said Nayeli Brena, director of the magazine, and Uriel's wife. The excitement before the girls took the stage was palpable, as they peered in mirrors and snapped photos together. Every year, the magazine selects one girl from its models to appear on the cover of the magazine and receive a free quincea?ra, Uriel Brena said.
"Some of the girls here, they couldn't have a quincea?ra because of the economy," he said. "This is their chance to put on a quincea?ra dress and take pictures."
A larger event will be held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Feb. 23. For more information visit BreNotas.com.
You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.