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Arts & Culture

Fiesta tackles new wellness initiatives, events, and royalty in quest for international attention

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Robby Middleton of Southwest Parades has been making parade floats for "about 37 years," he says. "Me and my wife started the business, and she's still working, and we're still plugging along." Their company runs a crew of six to eight craftsmen, who turn a customer's notion into a sketch, then fabricate the float out of wood and metal, and cover it with plastic sheeting. Then paper flowers are stapled on to brighten it all up. Figures of horses, cartoon characters and the like are sculpted around a wood armature covered with foam, chicken wire, and paper-mache and set on top next to the onboard sound speakers. This year their warehouse holds 31 floats for the Battle of Flowers, 13 for the Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade, and a dozen more that are going to Corpus Christi the following week. Set pieces for the Queen of the Alamo were locked up under wrap. Middleton says his outfit pretty much covers the state, sending floats to the State Fair and all the big events. But they also work for small country towns, too. "Most small towns have what they call a travel float," says Middleton. "They go to each others' parades and that's how to get 30 to 40 floats in a small town parade." — Scott Andrews

Fiesta has been expanding its empire noticeably over the years, from thematic ones like Fiesta Especial (a festival for special needs kids running April 20-21) to geographic additions like A Taste of the Northside (5:30-10:30 p.m. April 25, started in 2002 and expanded this year to allow for more interaction with brewmasters). To the latter category, add Best of the West at Our Lady of the Lake University (411 SW 24th). This April 22 event celebrates the west side of the city with food from 15 Westside restaurants, games and children's activities, intended to raise funds for scholarships and awareness of Westside businesses (11 a.m.-6 p.m., admission $4-$8. See for more info).

And sure to propel San Antonio higher up the fit list is the Fiesta Wildflower Bike Ride (8 a.m.-noon, April 22). Bike routes kicking off at Retama Park and ranging from 23 to 100 miles take adults and kids through the Hill Country. Registration is $45 for adults and $20 for the Tyke Bike Ride. Check out for more information.

The final new event is actually 52 years old. The ladies-elect of the San Antonio Lutheran Coronation are now officially recognized Fiesta royalty, a move that feels a bit like recognizing the sovereignty of a nation of young women trained in poise, adept at community service, and well-versed in the relationship between hot glue guns and ornate dresses. The Royal Court will be presented to the public at Fiesta Nuevo, April 22, at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. The free royal event, running 10:45 a.m. – 4 p.m., features a mariachi worship service, rides, games and food, music by the San Antonio Jazz Orchestra, and the coronation of King Gallo IX, who hopefully won't stage a coup against the Fiesta leadership for pushing a pro-bicycle agenda on his loyal subjects. •

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