Pedestrians line up to watch the parade.
Millions of people visit themed events throughout Fiesta, making it one of the largest city festivals in the state. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The Fiesta Commission’s nine-member executive committee will vote Friday morning on whether to continue, cancel, or postpone this year’s Fiesta San Antonio celebrations due to coronavirus concerns, said Amy Shaw, executive director of the commission.

Fiesta San Antonio Commission President Jeanie Travis will announce its decision at a press conference at 10 a.m. Friday at its headquarters alongside Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

The private meeting was called by Fiesta officials on Thursday amid a whirlwind of other large event cancellations in San Antonio and across the United States as communities try to mitigate the virus’ spread.

“We’ve been watching the situation day by day and hour by hour,” Shaw said Thursday. “If we do have to make a change, I hope it’s a postponement, not a cancellation.”

Sources close to the commission and in City Hall told the Rivard Report this week that Fiesta likely will be postponed.

“There hasn’t been a single community transmission of the virus [here], but I think smart people would probably see that it’s only a matter of time,” Shaw said. “We need to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our health care system can handle it.”

The Fiesta Commission has been in close contact with its nonprofit partners, City management, the mayor, and City Council, Shaw said. The City’s Metropolitan Health District has not recommended the cancellation of any events or large gatherings but notes that the situation is “rapidly changing.”

“We’re five weeks out and all of the events that are cancelling are in a day or two or less than a week,” Shaw said.

Fiesta, which takes place citywide, is scheduled for April 16-26. About 2.5 million people attend more than 100 official events, generating an economic impact of more than than $340 million, according to the Fiesta Commission. Dozens of nonprofits and charitable causes use the occasion to raise funds, including the Conservation Society of San Antonio, which organizes A Night in Old San Antonio.

Conversations surrounding Fiesta’s schedule likely is driven more by political pressure than medical reasons, said Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, a local epidemiologist.

“The fact that every other city is canceling large events, it’s hard to argue that [Fiesta] shouldn’t cancel or postpone,” Allegrini told the Rivard Report. “For public health reasons should they cancel? Maybe. Probably. But part of that is helping to qualm the public’s fears of [the virus].”

More than 830 people have signed an unofficial petition on change.org asking officials to cancel Fiesta.

“Fiesta won’t be cancelled,” Nirenberg said this week. “If necessary it will be postponed.”

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org