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Fiesta pumps in big dollars for San Antonio; police warn against drunk driving

Fiesta goers pack Market Square on April 4, 2023.
Joey Palacios
Fiesta goers pack Market Square on April 4, 2023.

Fiesta San Antonio has a major economic impact on the Alamo City during its 11-day run from April 18 through April 28.

More than 3 million Fiesta goers are expected to attend dozens of events planned across the city, many of them are major fundraisers for nonprofits, along with three major parades.

Fiesta San Antonio Commission President Richard Sparr told Bexar County commissioners the annual economic impact of the city's biggest celebration of the year has now exceeded previous estimates of $340 million.

"That figure of $340 million you just heard is a little bit dated. In talking to those economic professors that did that figure a number of years ago, with the cost-of-living adjustment, we can call it $400 million," he explained.

The event commemorates the Battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto that led to the independence of Texas from Mexico. It started with one parade, the Battle of Flowers, in 1891.

But Fiesta has now also grown into a celebration of the city's cultural diversity.

The UTSA Marching band can be seen in the Fiesta Flambeau Parade on Saturday. It and Friday's Battle of Flowers Parade follow the same route from San Antonio College to the Alamo and past City Hall.

Sparr said this year's Fiesta theme celebrates that diversity. "We have a theme: 'Fiesta for All,' " he told commissioners. "All inclusive — everybody's welcome. It's a party with a purpose."

That purpose is to raise money for nonprofits that fund services that benefit the city as a whole. Much of that money is raised through food and beer sales to revelers.

The ugly side of Fiesta is underage drinking but there are undercover officers, including agents from the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, weaving through the crowds to spot drinkers below the age of 21.

Public intoxication and drunk driving are other big concerns.

San Antonio police report more than 100 DWI arrests each year during Fiesta.

Michael Thornton, who now works homicide for the San Antonio Police Department, was helping a motorist 13 years ago as a patrol officer when he was hit by a repeat DWI offender and lost his right leg below the knee.

"Let's make this Fiesta season one to remember for all the right reasons. Remember to plan ahead. Someone's life depends on it. And it may be yours," he said.

Thornton spoke to county commissioners as they declared this month Alcohol Awareness Month.

VIA will offer Park and Ride Services to most major events.

A first time DWI offense could come with a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.