Shanti, a shepherd mix, greeted well-wishers at the Pearl Stable on Wednesday morning as King Anbarkio, the Grand Marshal of the annual Pooch Parade in Alamo Heights.

Shanti was chosen to be King Anbarkio — a play off King Antonio, the Texas Cavaliers’ head Fiesta royalty — for Therapy Animals of San Antonio’s 21st Annual Pooch Parade. Her owner Norma Brooks, a volunteer with the organization and a member of the board, said she adopted Shanti from the Humane Society.

“Someone threw her away in a box on South Presa,” Brooks said. “Talk about going from rescue to royalty.”

Every year, nonprofits like Therapy Animals of San Antonio raise money at Fiesta events to support their missions. On Wednesday, the Fiesta commission brought together several of the nonprofits to preview their 2019 Fiesta events and how proceeds from those events will be used.

Shanti, the 2019 King Anbarkio

The Pooch Parade is Therapy Animals’ only fundraising event of the year, Brooks said, and all proceeds from the march go toward training animals to provide therapy. Shanti visits children at a juvenile detention center regularly, but the working therapy animals — the organization has certified therapy cats as well — visit people everywhere.

“The City gives us more requests than we can fill,” Brooks said. “Agencies will send us requests saying, ‘Can you visit people in rehab, children in schools, hospital patients?’ to help with stress relief of whoever the people are.”

Standing next to Brooks and Shanti were representatives with the San Antonio Humane Society. The Humane Society raised more than $100,000 during its El Rey Fido fundraising drive, with more than $85,000 raised single-handedly by Hazel the French bulldog. The Humane Society will crown El Rey Fido, which is inspired by the human version El Rey Feo, on April 20.

The Women’s Club of San Antonio is hosting three events this year: the free Fiesta Teen Queen coronation ceremony, a free flower show, and a ticketed hat contest and luncheon. The club has been a charter member of the Fiesta Commission since it was created 60 years ago, member Elizabeth Neely said.

“Our biggest passion is to affirm women and at-risk women,” Neely said. “We give scholarships. We [have put women in] nursing and dental hygiene school. We put them into college.”

And this year, Fiesta staple Chili Queens Chili Cook-Off will pay homage to Bonham Exchange owner Kenneth Garrett, who died in February.

“We have a special memorial piece for him, a dedication,” event coordinator Thomas Moore said. “My mom put me in charge of writing a speech, which is one of the harder things I’ve had to do.”

Proceeds from the cook-off and tacky queen competition will go to the San Antonio AIDS Foundation and Thrive Foundation.

Overall, Fiesta events provide a significant financial boost to San Antonio’s economy.

“Fiesta brings in $340 million of economic impact,” Byron LeFlore, the 2019 Fiesta San Antonio Commission President, said. “That’s more than the Indy 500, South by Southwest, the Kentucky Derby. All of the money we generate, it stays in our community. And every time you buy a puffy taco, or a T-shirt, or ticket to ride a ride, the proceeds are going back to our community.”

Fiesta starts on April 18 with Fiesta Fiesta, and ends April 28. A full schedule of events can be found here.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.