Tucked away in her Savoye Tower office, Jessica Zazzara, the event coordinator for UDR at Vitruvian Park, is winding down from the Vitruvian Salsa Festival and gearing up for Vitruvian Lights. When Zazzara moved to Addison from New York with her husband, they originally lived at Savoye just after it was built, so Addison was her first taste of the area. She started out working in the strategy and analytics division of Epsilon, but joined up with UDR in January of 2013. UDR and the city of Addison are partners. Addison owns the immediate part of Vitruvian Park where the events are held, so every event Zazzara produces is on behalf of both UDR and the city.
“I work across a lot of different aspects of UDR,” explains Zazzara. “Of course, I direct all the events for Vitruvian Park and I am sort of a liaison. I work with our retailers — Citydog! Club, Addison Ice House… I work with them on their grand openings, I work with them in terms of their marketing and their promotions to our residents, and any event we do in conjunction with them.”
Zazzara also spearheads any events UDR does in conjunction with the Town of Addison, such Oktoberfest and Fork and Cork. There is usually a booth set up to let visitors know about Vitruvian Park.
“I think of Vitruvian Park as a hidden gem that not everyone knows about yet,” says Zazzara, “and that’s just the perfect opportunity for us. When you think of the tens of thousands of people that love to come to these big festivals Addison produces, that is by far the biggest audience we are going to have to let everyone know that Vitruvian Park is amazing. It truly exemplifies the live, work, play idea.”
She is also on the board of directors for the Addison Business Association, a committee for a golf tournament and any resident events she does with her event partners such as FC Dallas. Needless to say, she is incredibly busy, but she insists that it is fun. In fact, her favorite part of her day-to-day activities is posting events on the Vitruvian Park website. After all, she programs events, so there is nothing she enjoys more than doing just that.
Her most recent event, the Vitruvian Salsa Festival, just ended and was a huge success. Tens of thousands attended the event, far more than Zazzara ever expected. In 2013, Zazzara says she did something “on a much smaller scale.” She put together a summer and fall dance series, featuring a different style of dance every Friday night. The event was, comparatively speaking, sparsely attending, attracting at most 500 people on a single night.
“At the end of 2013,” Zazzara explains, “when I start to plan ahead and meet with all my previous event partners that I want to move forward with, the Dance Council brought in Louis Delgadillo, who is the owner of Salsa Dallas and the instructor of the salsa event last year. He said to me, ‘Have you ever thought of doing something on a bigger scale and honing in on salsa?’ When I looked back and I evaluated which nights were the most successful, it was country-western night and it was salsa. Of course, I’m always looking for ways to grow and make the events more successful, and that’s when the seed was planted.”
She decided to make something bigger and better, something families could attend and an event that lasted longer than two hours each Friday. The result was a hugely attended festival — over a thousand attended the first night — that is attracting excitement and anticipation for next year. She did not expect so large a turnout. She began with a small team of two police officers and one member from UDR and ended with a team of more than 20 to help handle the crowd and cleanup. Even so, Zazzara has plans to improve the festival for next year. Ideally, she would like more Latin-themed food trucks; some type of beer vendor; and to have the most popular band, Havanah NRG, open and close the festival. She has a few months before she will begin planning for next year, but for now she has bigger fish to fry.
“When I think of how blessed I was with the weather,” says Zazzara, “how much fun everyone had, and to watch it grow every single week, I know that I did something right. I’m excited for next year, and now I have Vitruvian Lights to plan. I will start programming Vitruvian Lights within the next two weeks. Most likely, the lights will start going up before the end of August, and then I’ll start planning the four events. [In 2013] Vitruvian Lights brought in over 10, 000 people over four events.”
It’s exhausting, yes, but every event is something to look forward to.
“The favorite part of my day is the event,” Zazzara continues. “You know, you work months and months and months to program an event and then it comes down to the day of the event and there’s nothing more rewarding — the late nights, the long days, the endless hours — just sitting back and watching people pour into the park and the enjoyment that they get out of it. There’s no bigger validation than to sit there with my counter and just count the people and watch how much fun they have. Every once in a while, more than I expected, I’ll have random people who don’t live here come up to me and say, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’ I couldn’t ask for a better reward than that. My goal is to bring an awareness to the park and keep growing the events, making them bigger and better, as big as we can possibly make them that the park will hold.”
Congratulations to Jessica Zazzara on a successful Vitruvian Salsa Festival. We look forward to next year and keep up the good work!