Rivard Report: For newcomers to Easter in San Antonio, why does everyone camp in Brackenridge Park for the weekend?
Corey Leamon: San Antonians have camped out for Easter festivities for generations, but no one seems to know when the tradition began. In support of its continuation, the city lifts park curfews at a total of twelve parks, the largest of which is Brackenridge Park. I only saw Roosevelt and Brackenridge, so it’s hard to know how many people participated – it was certainly in the thousands.
According to the Pichardo and Rivaz families, who were celebrating their 21st consecutive year in Brackenridge, it has always been packed. The numbers vary depending on the weather, but you will find them there every Easter, rain or shine.
RR: Is it a chaotic atmosphere or did you feel there was a sense of order/unspoken rules to the festivities?
CL: Every year gets slightly more chaotic, as families begin staking out their camping grounds earlier than the year before. Families tried to save parking for latecomers. However, everyone was very cooperative and respectful of the “first come, first serve” rule. Sergio Pichardo arrived a week in advance and another family had already picked out where his family camped the last four years.
RR: What kinds of activities during the weekend are unique to Easter weekend in Brackenridge Park?
CL: All over Brackenridge I found recreational activities like horseshoes, badminton, softball, water-gun fights, bicycling, and volleyball. Others were lounging in hammocks and airbeds under the blooming trees, playing in the river, or barbequing. Many were waiting for additional family members who didn’t camp to arrive in the afternoon. Meanwhile, children chased each other with silly string and cascarones.
Around 3 p.m., piñatas shaped like eggs and Easter bunnies began to bust and children dashed between trees and tables to find plastic eggs. A few brave souls dressed up like live Easter bunnies and visited children, despite the 80-degree weather. Everyone was thankful that the storm held off and sun shined through the afternoon – by 7 p.m. that evening, there was hail in the park from severe weather!
RR: How does Easter fit into the cultural setting of San Antonio?
CL: The people I spoke to have fallen into this tradition because of how significant it is in San Antonio’s history. It’s a time for families and friends to celebrate togetherness and community, and they’ve been doing it since before most can remember. Many families I spoke to have been participating for over two decades – the adults remember enjoying it as kids and want to pass it along to their children. There was no overwhelming religious presence; instead, those who celebrated spiritually did so through the love of their family and embracing their neighbors in the refreshing presence of nature.
RR: Do you have a favorite moment/photograph from the day?
CL: I have quite a few favorite moments because it’s wonderful to see so many families enjoying their time outdoors. I was overwhelmed with their kindness – many families welcomed me with food, cupcakes, drinks, and good conversation. I often feel like an intruder with my camera, but such hospitality made me feel at home. My favorite photo is probably the three young Pichardo and Rivaz kids being showered in piñata innards because they weren’t afraid to get dirty in the name of fun.
Over near the San Antonio Zoo, Chris Guzman somehow got a horseshoe stuck in the tree. And in a more nostalgic instant, a lone cowboy sat atop a gorgeous limestone wall with lilly pads beneath and towering trees above; there was a silent beauty in that for me.
RR: What was the most difficult photo to get?
CL: Photographing inside the bounce house was oddly dangerous. Not only was it difficult to hold my camera steady and not have it slam into my face, but five flying children was hazardous as well. In technical terms, you also have a lot of colors in a dark space, bouncing light around in all levels of the visible spectrum. That makes for some tough white balance!