King Antonio XCVI Richard Sparr arrives at the Arneson River Theater.
King Antonio XCVI Richard Sparr arrives at the Arneson River Theater during the 2018 Texas Cavaliers River Parade. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

I approached the Texas Cavaliers River Parade on Monday evening with apprehension, and not without a reporter’s trademark skepticism.

Several San Antonians had advised fleeing Fiesta altogether – the crowds, the trash on the streets, the drunkenness. The snaking, interminable lines in parking garages. The same events, players, sounds, and smells, year after year after year. One becomes inured.

Their world-weary warnings came with a caveat: Private parties – now there’s the ticket!

But Fiesta parades?

“Well. You should try it.” At least once, they allowed.

I’m glad I did.

Otherwise I wouldn’t have met Jennifer Hernandez. Or the friendly cop who preferred not to give his name.

Or Jim Travis, a Cavalier stationed at the Houston Street River Walk entrance, working his 24th River Parade.

I pointed to Travis’ nametag. “Any relation to?”

“I go back to his brother, who was an infant at the time he was at the Alamo,” Travis said.

Texas Cavalier Jim Travis
Texas Cavalier Jim Travis

“He” being William B. Travis, defender of the Alamo, author of a letter my mother taught her fifth graders in Alice, Karnes City, and McQueeney, Texas, for decades, snippets of which she could still recite when Alzheimer’s had mostly ravaged her brain.

“Travis had an infant brother?” I asked.

“He did, or I wouldn’t be here now, would I?”

Jim Travis had a point.

He wore the emblematic red pants, the somewhere-between-powder-and-cornflower blue jacket, the deep red braided shoulder cords, and a chest full of Fiesta medals.

“Tell me about the uniforms,” I asked, seeking history, tradition.

“They’re hot.”

Again, Jim Travis had a point.

What does he do when he’s not being a Cavalier? “Ranching and investments.” An answer non-Texans expect of Texans. At least the ranching part.

He waved me down to the River Walk, to thread through crowds of patient parade watchers and private parties. It was a cool night, redolent with the wafting smoke of grilled fajitas and barbecue, faint whiffs of perfume, beer and margaritas, and, near the waterfalls, the fecund plant smell of the river.

Jennifer Hernandez wasn’t on the River Walk, but above, street level, with the crowds who wore no colored wristbands, held no tickets for the numbered folding chairs below along the river bank.

Jennifer Hernandez.
Jennifer Hernandez Credit: Beth Frerking / San Antonio Report

Hernandez worked her wheeled basket of bejeweled baby headbands and bright cloth flowers – sunflower yellows and Caribbean aquas and Indian paintbrush orange – alongside the crowds. She walked near the teen couples who, entwined, draped over the stone bridges, watching the floats below. Near the young parents who held their toddlers high enough, but not too close, to watch. Grandparents who sat in canvas camp chairs, rubbing their feet, sipping from plastic beer cups.

Hernandez said her creations were a family legacy. “I learned it from my mom.”

She lives on the Westside, works six days a week caring for the elderly. Monday was her one day off. “I said, I have to go downtown!” It was a chance for a little extra money. But that seemed secondary. “It’s Fiesta,” she said, with no further explanation.

Jennifer Hernandez had a point.

So, too, did the friendly cop, who stood with his female partner doing duty on Commerce Street. I asked if they’d been trained for any scary situations. A Las Vegas, for example.

He allowed they had, but offered no details.

I told him I’d been prepared for rowdy, loud, pushing crowds. Unpleasantness, generally.

He shrugged, gave a short laugh as he glanced up at the parents and toddlers, the teens, the families strolling by. People having fun. Happy.

“Nahhh, this is San Antonio,” he said, shaking his head in a friendly “no.”

“This is how we roll.”

This story was originally published on April 23. 

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Beth Frerking

Beth Frerking is the former editor-in-chief of the Rivard Report.