Partying with a Purpose
It’s great to get up in the morning without having to worry about “all things Fiesta.” Yes, I probably obsess over the 11-day festival a little too much but that’s because I really do care about how Fiesta presents itself to San Antonio and the world. Each day was spent making sure the recycling plans were being executed, that we were keeping people informed via Facebook through status updates, and that any questions were being answered as promptly as we could. One FB inquiry was almost completely in Spanish (thank goodness for Spanish-English translation tools). The picture I posted pretty much sums up why I do what I do for Fiesta and invest the time and effort into the organization. Seeing Ebony and Eleazer recycling on their own after the Battle of Flowers Parade made all the work a worthwhile endeavor.
Fiesta San Antonio is such a big organization. It’s made up of over 100 participating member organizations, all non-profits. Each organization hosts an event or contributes to staging the festival in various ways. The events often serve as one of the biggest sources of funds for the benefit of the organization. Take the Oysterbake, for example. Funds raised from that event are used for scholarships for students at St. Mary’s University and to help with some university programs. The San Antonio Conservation Society uses its funds from NIOSA to help with preservation grants and education throughout the year, as highlighted by an article by Ben Olivo of the San Antonio Express-News’ Downtown blog.
That’s why we call Fiesta the “Party with a Purpose.” Sure it’s a lot of fun for all the folks who come down for the food, drinks, and music at the events. But it’s also a way to drive impact back into the community, both economically and through charitable development. Fiesta generates probably more than $300 million in economic impact to the city of San Antonio leading up to and during the 11 days. That doesn’t account for the millions in charitable impact generated that feed back into the community throughout the year. These facts alone get lost sometimes by the folks who come down to have a great time at the events.
This point was driven home when dealing with a business organization who wanted to allow conference attendees to attend some Fiesta events. When we provided a quote on Flambeau parade tickets to the organization, they started to ask what deal we were really providing. That’s when we explained that we don’t offer “deals” on parade tickets and that the funds generated by the parade didn’t go to a private vendor but to a non-profit for scholarships. It started to sink in deeper that we really needed to explain what Fiesta was all about, that it wasn’t some private event but a community event for San Antonio.
During clean-up after the Battle of Flowers Parade I ran across several very young children recycling on their own. In one case, a little girl, probably 4 years old, was picking up plastic bottles and putting them into one of our yellow volunteer recycling bags. No one was coaching her. She just knew that those plastic bottles belonged in the bag and that was all she was picking up. I had to collect her bag to get it to the truck but before I left I took off my Battle of Flowers medal and gave it to her. It was the right thing to do.
This coming year I’m probably going to continue working with Fiesta Verde as we expand the program into more events and improve our parade recycling efforts. I’ve also decided to seek a minor leadership role in the organization (more to come later) to help work on some new initiatives planned for Fiesta. After reading some comments from friends about the public’s perception of Fiesta I feel it’s important to improve that perception by letting people know what Fiesta is really about.
Sure, there are all the parties and prestige of being a part of Fiesta, but many of you who know me should know that’s not what I’m all about. In fact, I’ve made a new commitment that started this year of giving to children several of the medals given to me during Fiesta. That commitment happened after the Flambeau Parade while walking back to the building.
A young mother wanted to have her daughter’s picture made with me and my sash full of medals. To help entice the young girl into having the picture made I took off my Miss Fiesta medal and gave it to her. You should have seen her eyes light up when I put that pretty medal on her. That’s when I realized how much more they would enjoy those medals than me.
So, that pretty much sums up my thoughts on this year’s Fiesta celebration. I’ll be heading to Portland this June to visit the Portland Rose Festival, a sister festival to Fiesta. They have a very strong sustainability program and I plan to spend some time talking to them about it. A representative of the Royal Rosarians has also offered to set up a meeting with the Portland Mayor’s Office to discuss their programs.