Our correspondent Sid Seidenberger writes about his trip with friends to this year’s Fiesta Flambeau, proving that being a schoolteacher can sometimes have quite a Fiesta Bonus!
It has been years since I last attended the Fiesta Flambeau night parade, but this year a couple of good friends, Patti and Al, both from Mission Trace, and I decided to go.
As veterans of many parades, we had the drill down pat: comfortable shoes, shorts, festive shirts, and adventurous Fiesta spirits (lively enthusiasm, that is, not libations, of course!).
The three of us are quite left-brained, concrete- sequential type personalities, and this was more or less (probably more) a spontaneous decision to attend the parade. In the past, I have attended the Fiesta parades and enjoyed viewing them from seats I had bought months earlier, as expected of a man with a plan left-brainer. This year, we had no seats, had no idea where we'd wind up in the parade route, no idea where we'd park, and still we bravely set out to make our way to the Fiesta parade with the largest attendance of all according to the records. (It must be hard counting heads from that helicopter hovering above the parade spectators!)
Traveling from Mission Trace and then down Interstate-10 to downtown was a breeze... until we hit we hit the Interstate-35 North exit. It was " worse back" up than "Wurzbach" traffic, to which we are daily accustomed to battling. We quickly averted the traffic cluster by staying on IH-10 until we made it to the Durango exit, which was also clogged by parade bound motorists, so we exited at the next intersection, did a turn-around, and made our way into the downtown area via Flores Street.
Once we made it to the area by Fox Tech High School, we encountered parking lot after parking lot with frown inducing entrance signs stating: LOT FULL. Ready to almost give up, we had a great idea! Why not valet park at the lot of one of the high-end, upscale downtown hotels (which shall remain nameless for obvious reasons)? Yes! Problem solved! You see, there are some fringe benefits to being a teacher; I have several former students working at this unnamed hotel as guest parking attendants, so they have always told me they will "hook me up" with parking anytime needed. If ever I needed one single, solitary slot in which to park, it was on this evening of ubiquitous LOT FULL signs.
Patti, Al, and I walked away from the valet parking entry of the hotel, and I felt as privileged as King Antonio himself, having handed over my keys and car to my former student, who was so pleased to accommodate us. I felt like a V.I.P. getting my car parked among the other Official Fiesta Vehicles. Of course I had no signs like these on my car, only the usual pings, dings, and scratches.
Having successfully parked, Patti, Al, and I realized the next hurdle to jump was finding either bleacher seats or street chairs. The thought of standing for an entire parade is not appealing, so we questioned every parade usher (easy to spot because of the lime green baseball caps supplied by the Fiesta Commission) as to the possibility of purchasing seats. We kept getting the response "all sold out,” so we were resigned to the fact that we would be standing!
Then we came upon a section of street seats unoccupied and figured we'd just sit down until the ticket holders arrived. As we began to shimmy down the row, a brightly fiesta attired lady with a flower and ribbon head wreath, looked puzzlingly at us as we sat, and she said these seats were hers. We were caught red-handed and red faced, but she quickly assured us that it was not a problem because her guests were not able to attend. She asked if we wished to purchase the seats, we said indeed we did, and then we were able to rightfully sit in the chairs with tickets in our possession!
Relieved to be legally seated, the Mission Trace trio felt victorious in acquiring not only primo parking but also choice chairs in the second row! What luck! With this winning track record for the evening, what could possibly go wrong?
It seemed an eternity before the parade actually made its way to our location on Third Avenue between Broadway and Alamo. As we waited, the kindly lady who sold us her extra seats took out a big blue zippered picnic tote, opened it, and was handing her family members foil wrapped tacos. Jokingly, I asked her if the tacos came with the purchase price of our seat tickets. She laughed, her lace lit up with a big grin, and the next thing I knew, her son (seated next to me) handed me three tacos, salsa, and napkins. Overcome with surprise, I looked down the row at this gracious lady who smiled at me. She said, "Please enjoy them. Happy Fiesta!" We quickly devoured the delicious, tasty tacos and gave our thanks not only for the seats, but also the treats!
Finally, the parade commenced with the motorcycle cops heralding its beginning. Shortly thereafter, the usual dignitaries including Mayor Hardberger and King Antonio came waving at the spectators. Suddenly we heard loud hollering and thunderous applause for the Grand Marshal, the one and only heart throb of "Dancing with the Stars" and the former star of "Saved by the Bell"... Mario Lopez!
The usual fiesta parade floats followed super Mario with queens and princesses, marching bands, twirlers, dancers, and lots of frustratingly long lulls.... and then a drenching downpour! Yes, there was a dark cloud over our auspicious experience, the heavens opened up, and happy parade revelers scrambled as fast as their fleet-footed Fiesta feet could carry them to seek cover from the rain.
Mother Nature drew a quick, unexpected close to the 2007 Fiesta Flambeau Parade. She reigned over the evening as the most powerful of all the Fiesta queens that night, but she did not dampen the indomitable spirit of San Antonio.
The Mission Trace trio trekked our way through the infernal puddles left by the showers and amidst the trash and rubble left by the crowds and headed back to the hotel parking lot. We were disappointed that the rain ended our Fiesta fun, but we were still talking about the touching generosity and thoughtfulness of the real queen of the event, the lovely flower and ribbon wreath crowned lady who sold us her extra tickets and fed us, too. There are still truly nice people left in this world!
Do you have a Fiesta event to report? Feel free to e-mail me.