Fiesta parades in San Antonio strive to remain above the political fray, but city electoral politics rolled into the Fiesta Flambeau parade Saturday in the form of a utility vehicle carrying Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) and displaying re-election campaign signs.
Several attendees seated in Alamo Plaza and other areas along the parade route informally complained to officials about the councilman’s appearance in the parade, said Bonnie Carrisal, president of the Fiesta Flambeau Parade Association, which organizes the event.
Carrisal said Perry, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was informed that the signs and his presence were not allowed in the parade, but he was seen by many along the route waving to crowds.
Perry, who is completing his first term on City Council and faces four challengers in the May 4 election, said no one told him to leave or escorted him away from the parade.
“If somebody would have said something to me, I definitely would have corrected. … That did not happen,” he told the Rivard Report on Tuesday.
“I had no idea that was going to be an issue,” said Perry.
Perry said he did not arrive at the parade expecting to join the event. He said the police union asked him to help hand out “a lot of water and a lot of tacos” to officers downtown along the parade route, and the vehicle entered the route to do that. Someone suggested that he put campaign signs on the vehicle, he said.
If it looked like a coordinated political campaign move, he said, “it wasn’t meant to be that way, and I apologize.”
Rivard Report staff observed Perry’s vehicle cruising in the parade, but did not witness parade staff speaking with him or the vehicle’s other occupants.
Linda Skop, the parade director, recalled telling the four men in the vehicle, including Perry, that politicians aren’t allowed in the parade. They said they were just passing out water, Skop said. “‘That’s fine,’ I said, ‘but you can’t be in the parade.'”
It isn’t uncommon for elected officials to try to find ways to appear on a group’s float, Skop and Carrisal said, but only the mayor is invited as a courtesy to represent the City of San Antonio. Parade volunteers are stationed along the route to make sure there aren’t any extra people – elected or not – hopping in, Carrisal said.
“It seems that every year there are one or two elected officials/candidates who jump into a parade unannounced, and the parade organizations do what they can to get that activity to cease immediately,” said Amy Shaw, executive director of the Fiesta Commission.
Carrisal said she hopes this incident will serve notice to other elected officials seeking a spot in the parade. “We do not allow it,” she said.
The parade is about celebration of culture and the City, Carrisal said. “Our limelight is what goes down the street, not politics.”
The parade association is considering sending Perry a letter outlining its policies and guidelines, she said.
No official complaints have been filed with the City, according to a City spokeswoman.