San Antonio’s favorite time of year is quickly approaching! There is no one more perfect to write a post about Fiesta than ATKG’s very own Fiesta Queen, Dee Bandy. I hope you’ll enjoy the blog and start making plans to attend at least one Fiesta event this year! ~Cassie
Fiesta is San Antonio’s biggest festival. This 11-day “Party with a Purpose” raises money during 100+ events across the city put on by over 100 local non-profit organizations and military units. These events are a blend of arts, heritage and culture honoring the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. The festivities include concerts, parades, dances, food, more parades and fun. These events would not be possible without the 75,000+ volunteers who help these organizations host their events. 11 days, 100+ events and about 3.5 million attendees…that’s a big party!
If you want to know more about fiesta or view a full calendar of events, you can download the Fiesta San Antonio app or visit www.fiesta-sa.org. Yes…there’s an app for that!
I go to Fiesta every year, and often volunteer at some of the events (it’s a great way to get in free!). If you’re new to Fiesta, here are three of the most popular events.
Oysterbake is a two-day event that raises scholarship money for St. Mary’s University students. This event has five stages of entertainment, a carnival, food and fireworks. Of course oysters are served (baked or raw), but if you aren’t big on shellfish, you have over 50 additional food and beverage items to choose from. Chicken on a stick is perhaps one of the most popular fiesta eats. You’ll be asked “with or without” (a jalapeno). If you like a little extra spice, ask to have your chicken on a stick dipped in the jalapeno juice. Don’t knock it until you try it!
NIOSA – Whether you pronounce it “NEE-OSA” or NIY-OSA” it’s still a Night in Ol’ San Antonio. This is one of the largest fiesta events with record breaking numbers ever year. Held in the historic arts village of La Villita and arranged into 15 culturally themed areas, you’ll enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of many of San Antonio’s oldest cultural influences. Try some escargot in the French Quarter or some potato skins in the Irish flats. Grab a cerveza along with one of the oldest and most popular eats, an anticucho (marinated and grilled beef on a stick) in the Mexican market. Take a break from the heat and head indoors to the Sauerkraut bend for your favorite German grub and brew.
El Mercado or The Market Square is a three block outdoor plaza lined with shops and restaurants, located downtown. Market is open all year but comes alive during Fiesta. This is the largest free event, lasting 10 days; open to all ages, showcasing live entertainment, bands, folkloric dance and over 30 delicious food booths. If you have a Mexican Elvis siting, stop and take a picture — he’s locally famous. The best micheladas (beer, lime juice, assorted sauces, spices and peppers) are made right in front of you, from scratch, ice cold and as spicy as you like. It’s believed that these are a good hangover remedy. Wander through the various shops and find some bargain souvenirs, hand-embroidered dresses or a sombrero for your next fiesta event.
1. Pre-purchase tickets to save time and money by visiting the business center at HEB or the Fiesta Store on Broadway.
2. Take the bus or have someone pick up and drop you off at events. Parking is never close and never cheap. UBER is also a good option (use code: 7w2nb for a free ride).
3. Pack a light purse or backpack. You will need cash, sunblock and a place to hold your freebies. Be prepared to open your bag at the gate for a quick security check.
4. If you take your children, identify them with a contact name and phone number. Safety pin a card with your info to the back of their t-shirt. Take a picture of your child before the event in case of an emergency. Not all events allow strollers.
5. All events are promoted as family friendly, but remember, as the sun starts to set, the crowds increase and the space decreases.
6. Be sure to dress for the occasion. Ladies, grab your flower crowns and fiesta dress. Guys, sport your guayabera shirt–you’ll fit right in.
7. Hydrate to protect yourself from sun and alcohol.
8. Cascarones=Confetti. Enough said.
9. Fiesta Medals are my favorite keepsake. I started collecting medals about 4 years ago…hint hint…feel free to send me medals!!
My final and most important tip is to never be stuck with tickets, so as the night comes to an end and you don’t quite have enough tickets for that one last taco, barter with a vendor for a cheaper price. This works on nearly everything except alcoholic beverages. No matter what events you choose to attend you will have a great time. Talk to the people around you, let out a grito and enjoy lots of food.
P.S. I’d love to see photos of you at your favorite fiesta events. You can email them to me at email@example.com.
To read more Off the Menu blog posts, click here.
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