Put a chicken on a stick and crack some cascarones – today is the official kickoff for Fiesta San Antonio 2014, an event that originally commemorated the heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto in 1891. Since then, Fiesta has evolved into a city-wide celebration of culture, charity and fun. This year promises to be even bigger, with an extra week added to the lineup – 18 days total. There are so many parades, parties and events during Fiesta (about 100 official events) that it might be hard to keep everything straight. But don’t fear—I’m here to give some recommendations throughout the festival to keep you going strong. Before we get started, here are a few things to keep in mind before diving in.
Alcohol is abundant at many of the Fiesta events and it is, of course, important not to drink and drive. There are plenty of options to get to and from events, including Via’s park and ride services. It only costs $5 to ride a bus round trip and in the past they even gave you a special Via Fiesta medal. While this is a great way to avoid the hassle of parking, you will still need a designated driver if you plan on partying hard.
If your entire group plans on drinking, consider hailing a cab or using one of the new “rideshare” services like Lyft or Uber. Be sure to save a taxi phone number in your contact list or download one of the ride sharing apps before heading out — cellphone Internet speeds always seem to drag at Fiesta.
Riders Under the Influence (RUI), a volunteer service inspired by the friends and family of a young girl killed by a drunk driver, drives you and your car home on Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
A common “reason” that people risk driving drunk is that they don’t want to go through the hassle of getting their car the next day. Again, drivers are volunteers so donations are welcome. Check out www.RUIsanantonio.org or call 210-999-0200.
Get Your Tickets Now
Many of the larger events—such as Oyster Bake, Taste of New Orleans and NIOSA—sell tickets in advance at different places around the city. Not only can you save money by purchasing them now, you can avoid the long line at the event to purchase tickets. There are other festivities, such as Cornyation, where tickets are required for admission. They go fast so be sure to get them today.
You are probably already seeing a lot of bright colors throughout the city. Papel picados, or strings of colorful paper cutouts, adorn porches, balconies and windows across San Antonio. Fiesta wreaths with ribbons, paper flowers and piñatas are showing up on doors. Looking to bring a little Fiesta color to your home? Check out Fiesta on Main (where I happen to get my wreath) or The Cascaron Store on Broadway.
Women often wear coronas, crowns of paper flowers, which can be purchased at many of the Fiestas events, but you can also find them at H-E-B beforehand. I favor a sombrero and found a nice one at The Mariachi Connection on West Commerce. Clothing with bright colors is a must and you can find a custom guayabera at Dos Carolinas at the Pearl Brewery (I’ve been pining for one for a while now).
Be on the lookout for folks wearing sashes with shiny medals. They get the medals by either buying the at official events or are given them by people and businesses that hand them out (I had a friend who made medals for her wedding one year).
Here are a couple of events to get you started with Fiesta today:
Fiesta Fiesta at the Alamo
This is the official kickoff to Fiesta at Alamo Plaza! Catch glimpses of Rey Feo and King Antonio as you yell “Viva Fiesta!” to officially ring in the best festival in the country. Medal fanatics will have a chance to buy, sell and trade them at the Pin Pandemonium starting at 5 p.m.
Tejano Explosion at Cattleman’s Square
If you love Tejano or Conjunto music, you won’t want to miss the Tejano Explosion. With concerts fourteen of the eighteen nights of Fiesta, there will be plenty of opportunities to dance the night away. Each evening features three different bands, with the first act going on 5:30 p.m. The first concert is tonight with headliner Eddie Gonzalez taking the stage at 9 p.m. Other major acts playing this year include Ramon Ayala (April 11), Los Lonely Boys (April 18), AB Quintanilla (April 19) and Rick Trevino (April 22). Admission varies between $8 and $18, but you can save two bucks by printing off this coupon.
The full Fiesta 2014 schedule can be found here.
Let Garrett know about your favorite Fiesta event, awesome unofficial party or where he can find medals by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.