What better way to start San Antonio's biggest ever presence at South by Southwest (SXSW) but with a breakfast taco competition between San Antonio and Austin's renowned chefs?
Given the state of relations between the two cities in the so-called taco war, San Antonians headed for the annual convergence of technology, media, music and film said it's time to have a fun, face-to-face showdown over the contested origins and popularization of the taco.
Mayor Ivy Taylor made the announcement about the breakfast taco competition to a crowd of 200 during a #SATXatSXSW rally at the San Antonio Entrepreneur Center on Thursday.
Chef Johnny Hernandez will represent San Antonio in the competition being held Friday morning, March 11, at the Old School Bar and Grill at East Sixth and Trinity streets. The contest kicks off the first day of South by Southwest and San Antonio's most coordinated showcase yet at the annual festival. From March 11-13, the Old School Bar will become "Casa San Antonio," and act as a cultural embassy to host more than 30 events over that weekend.
Aside from Mayor Taylor, the rally included brief comments from Kevin Peckham and Eric Bell, the leaders of Choose San Antonio, the nonprofit that has organized more than 30 public and private sector partners for San Antonio's first official SXSW presence.
"What we have planned at South by Southwest is the biggest official activation any city has ever done at South by Southwest Interactive, and it's the first one the City of San Antonio has had at South by Southwest," Peckham said.
Two of the #SATXatSXSW sponsors, Busted Sandal Brewing Co. and Whataburger, offered free refreshments, while volunteers sold shirts, stickers and temporary tattoos with the official SATXatSXSW logo created by local artist Cruz Ortiz. Attendees enjoyed the free items and networked throughout the festive event.
Several of the SXSW local representatives, who specialize in a variety of fields, were present for Thursday's rally. More than 80 representatives will take part in a trade show, panel discussions, meetups, networking opportunities, workshops, parties and other avenues to promote what it's like to live and work in San Antonio.
"Choose San Antonio is the best kind of pioneer," Taylor said. "I'm confident they'll bring a fresh perspective that'll ensure our success at South by Southwest this year. I know we have a great product and a great brand, and we just need to get out there."
The mayor said the goal of San Antonio's SXSW initiative is to highlight the opportunities associated with the City's economic and cultural growth.
"I strongly believe our city has a great balance and a great mix of history, culture, art, music, business, technology, that can be a match for the needs of anyone who will be at the festival," Taylor said.
She added because of the overall growth of San Antonio and Austin, SXSW would be a prime venue for private and public sector partners from both cities to explore issues of mutual interest and potential cooperation.
But as mentioned, fun can be had with such things as the ever-growing battle the cities have developed around tacos, as the mayor broke the announcement of the March 11 competition.
"We're still awaiting to hear which Austin chef is man or woman enough to accept the challenge," Taylor said, adding that Alex Vallis, a contributor to "Food & Wine Magazine" will serve as an official judge. Taylor will be at an informal gathering of mayors in Austin on March 10.
Bexar County Executive Director David Marquez was also present for Thursday's rally. Marquez recognized the high level of organization of public and private sector partners for the SXSW initiative. The County will host the startup reception at Casa San Antonio on March 11.
Marquez mentioned how the County Commissioners Court recently approved a policy meant to help attract and bolster local technology talent.
"It's all about being on the same team. We're the same community," he added.
Bell, who also serves as vice president for local firm Group 42, is partnering with the local SXSW initiative. Bell said he was inspired by other communities and whole nations that were formally promoting themselves at previous SXSW festivals.
"If the country of Germany can come to Austin, why can't San Antonio come to Austin," Bell said.
For some local business owners like Veronica Morales, CEO/founder of local marketing group The Social Being, a large-scale, organized presence for San Antonio at SXSW is overdue. Morales was excited in attending Thursday's rally. She has attended past SXSW editions with colleagues as event attendees, but Morales said she was excited for the city to be a part of the event.
"It's about time San Antonio goes to Austin," she added.
*Top Image: Mayor Ivy Taylor announces a taco war that will be held against Austin at SXSW. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone