Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
As in many Fiestas past, Main Plaza Friday night transformed into a place of royalty, but it also remained what it already is – a place for the people.
The annual crowning of El Rey Feo – “The Ugly King” – saw longtime local businessman Fred Reyes honored as the 69th king. Celebrations took place amid a flurry of mariachi music, folklórico dance, and an excited crowd of several hundred people.
Texas Cavaliers 2017 King Antonio XCV Michael A. Casillas couldn't wait for the event to begin.
"It's all about traditions and respect for what's gone on in the past and what's going to happen in the future and celebrating the current year," he said. "When Rey Feo gets crowned, it means something to him. I know Fred Reyes and it's going to mean a lot to him this year."
The legend of Rey Feo dates back to Spanish medieval times, when the King of Spain filled his court with only the most beautiful and aristocratic members, thus alienating the common people. One day, a defiant crowd gathered in the main plaza to protest the king's elitism and declared one of their own "The Ugly King," or "The King of the People."
The tradition made its way to Mexico, and eventually to San Antonio. In 1947, members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council No. 2 decided to recreate the tradition as a fun, competitive way to raise scholarship money for deserving local students.
In 1980, the efforts of Rey Feo XXXII Logan Stewart, a prominent radio personality, saw the celebration included in the official Fiesta calendar, complete with its own parade, the Paseo del Rey Feo.
Today, Rey Feo and his courts are an integral part of the major Fiesta parades and other celebrations, all the while maintaining their philanthropic goals of supporting local youth in pursuit of quality education. Each year, former Rey Feos select two local businessmen who battle it out in fundraising efforts for the Rey Feo Scholarship Foundation from May to October. The nonprofit program has raised more than $7 million for scholarships given to more than 3,000 students, according to its website.
Reyes, who succeeded Darren Casey in this honorable role, is a "second generation Hispanic business professional" and CEO of Site B Data Services. After a successful 20-year track record of overseeing and administering profitable small businesses, Reyes founded Site B in 2009.
"It's an amazing feeling. It's overwhelming to see how the city comes out," Reyes told the Rivard Report after being crowned. "This is what the embodiment of Fiesta is. I'm so humbled and so honored by all of this."
Reyes and his court will host “Fiesta de los Reyes,” one of the largest free Fiesta events, every day throughout the 11-day celebration. A variety of stages showcase live music performances by conjunto, Tejano, cumbia, and cover bands, food and drink from around 30 local vendors flow freely, and Market Square will stay hopping until the very end – Fiesta-style, of course.
For more information on forthcoming Fiesta events, click here.