Fourteen-year-old Cassandra Zamora, who is planning her quinceanera celebration in April, was surrounded Sunday by vendors trying to turn her head.
The dazzle of multihued ball gowns and DJ beats was familiar to Zamora from watching "My Super Sweet 16" and "Quiero Mis Quinces," TV reality shows focused on elaborate coming-of-age celebrations.
"They give you ideas for themes," the Lincoln High student said.
So did a recent Quinceanera Expo at Sacramento's DoubleTree Hotel. The event drew more than 400 people teens and family members planning 15th-birthday celebrations to watch a fashion show, sample caterers' entrees, hear DJs spin or sit in a VIP room mock-up.
But the expo's up-to-the-moment ideas were tempered by tradition. Zamora will have a Mass with her quinceanera, just as her mother, Maria, once did as a girl in Mexico.
Her mother's party was not as fancy as the celebrations she sees now, but it was just as much a rite of passage.
"It was such a beautiful experience," said Maria Zamora, 41, who accompanied her daughter to the expo.
It no doubt lacked a white-curtained, white-sofa VIP lounge like the one set up at the expo by DJ El Traviezo of Stockton.
Such features are becoming standard at today's quinceaneras, which can run tens of thousands of dollars, according to Heidi Ramirez of Quinceanera magazine, a twice-yearly publication with a circulation of 25,000 in Northern California and sponsor of this month's expo.
Ramirez said quinceanera celebrations, once primarily thrown by Spanish-speaking families, now reach second and third generations and carry on "as a traditional thing, whether or not they speak Spanish."
The new generations are eager to merge new trends with centuries-old tradition.
A troubled economy has not cut into the quinceanera market, Ramirez said.
"We think a lot about people losing their jobs, but they still are having their events, even if it is on a really low budget," Ramirez said. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and family will pitch in to make events happen."
The Northern California market is a strong one for the magazine, Ramirez said. The publication's Northern California franchise, now 6 years old, was the first of several for the magazine, which started in Las Vegas.
Potential quinceanera venues put up stands at the expo. But "some people will have it at their houses," said Ricardo Ascencion, owner of Esmeralda's Bridal Boutique, a dress shop that does a brisk business in colorful quinceanera dresses.
No matter the size of the celebration, the dress is a mainstay, Ascencion said. At Esmeralda's, they start around $350 and come in an array of vibrant colors and textures.
Quinceanera dresses, in the past often white or a subtle color, now come in red, hot pink, gold and purple. Over the past several years, consumers have demanded that "designs, colors and materials be more versatile," said Angel Yan of Mary's Bridal, a dress design house in Houston.
Cassandra Zamora already knows her celebration will have a DJ and will be held in a hall in Lincoln. She was looking for her dress at the expo. She wanted it to be aqua, she said, and not too poufy the latter part a tall order, given that most quinceanera dresses come with hoop skirts.
The colors pop, and the material might be gathered into layers resembling roses or feathers, but the dresses' design remains highly traditional. Quinceanera girls still look like fairy princesses.
There was a procession of them at the expo's fashion show, during which teens, hair piled high and accented by tiaras, modeled the latest dress styles. Most were participants in Quinceanera magazine's "cover girl" contest from last year.
The winner, 16-year-old Victoria Valdivia of Elk Grove, had her own quinceanera celebration more than a year ago. She won a magazine-sponsored pageant last fall and officially became cover girl with the January publication of the magazine's latest issue.