A vendor sells balloons and light sticks during the Fiesta Flambeau Parade in 2019. Fiesta is responsible for an annual economic impact of more than $300 million.
A vendor sells balloons and light sticks during the Fiesta Flambeau Parade in 2019. Fiesta is responsible for an annual economic impact of more than $300 million. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

New Fiesta San Antonio Commission Executive Director Steve Rosenauer once wore the Shuckie mascot costume for the annual St. Mary’s Fiesta Oyster Bake and said he’d be prepared to do it again if it would help Fiesta recover from its pandemic cancellation.

“If need be, I can put that costume on,” Rosenauer said. “I definitely don’t mind doing whatever it takes to get the job done.”

The commission announced Monday that it had tapped the longtime Fiesta volunteer and Oyster Bake executive director to lead Fiesta into its post-coronavirus era. Rosenauer said he began working as an Oyster Bake volunteer during his student days at St. Mary’s University and has been involved with the festival and the Fiesta Commission since graduating in 1992.

He has also worked as the director of the St. Mary’s University Alumni Association, which sponsors the annual oyster-based Fiesta tradition to raise money for scholarships and university programs, for 25 years.

Fiesta Commission President Walter Serna said that among 25 candidates for the position, all with local ties, Rosenauer’s volunteerism and enthusiasm stood out, as did his familiarity with the festival and its partner organizations.

Serna praised Rosenauer’s “strong in-depth record when it comes to Fiesta.”

“With the pandemic, we wanted somebody with a little bit of experience with festivals and could jump right in and fill Amy’s shoes,” he said.

Serna referred to outgoing Executive Director Amy Shaw, who retired after leading the organization for five years.

Rosenauer extended his appreciation for Shaw, saying, “I really give her a lot of kudos for her leadership,” particularly during the initial Fiesta postponement and subsequent cancellation. “She did a great job. I definitely have some big shoes to fill,” he said.

Fiesta San Antonio Commission Executive Director Steve Rosenauer

Rosenauer emphasized the festival’s $340 million economic impact on San Antonio, and praised its 75,000 volunteers. He is familiar with the importance of volunteers to the success of the main event and its many participating member organization events, enough that Rosenauer was elected to the Order of the Cascaron, an organization devoted to recognizing longtime Fiesta volunteers, in 2017.

“It’s definitely a special group. I was very honored to be selected,” he said.

Canceling Fiesta 2020 was definitely the correct decision, Rosenauer said, prioritizing community safety as a primary concern. Looking ahead to April 15-25, the scheduled dates for next year’s Fiesta, he said, “We want everybody to stay safe and support each other and make sure we do the right things so we can have a successful and safe Fiesta in 2021.”

Eager to begin in his new position, Rosenauer said his last day with St. Mary’s was Friday, and he started at Fiesta on Saturday. For the remainder of 2020, he said his main goals will be to “increase our sponsorships and increase our revenues.”

Rosenauer is enthusiastic about raising new revenues for the annual festival and its charitable operations but said he is realistic about the challenging funding environment created by widespread pandemic-caused economic woes.

“That could be a little bit of a challenge this year financially as far as our expected revenues, but we definitely have a lot of plans in place to make sure we maintain and we steward our sponsors and our volunteers as well to make sure that we do have a successful financial year,” he said.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...