Thousands of visitors flocked to Yanaguana Garden on Saturday for the inaugural Mockingbird Fest, a free, day-long celebration of authentic Texas culture. Festival crowds transformed the park into an interactive space that offered the best of Texas’ music, food, history, and heritage.
“The whole thing is kind of a love letter from Texans to Texas,” said Hemisfair Communications Manager Drew Hicks, adding that this was the first major event the park had hosted since Yanaguana opened in October.
Residents can look forward to The Mockingbird Fest every year, around Texas Independence Day on March 2, and the public can expect to see other similar cultural events at the park each season.
Hungry Texans lined up early to try tasty tamales from Cocina Heritage, and several groups opted for a Pan Dulce Burger at Con Safos. Local breweries such as Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling and Goliad Brewing Company passed out brew samples to adults, while children enjoyed agua frescas.
There was a constant crowd surrounding Dom’s Chop Salsa booth for free chips and salsa, the states’s official snack. The grilled salsa operation is run by Dom Mendiola and his wife Susana, but the festival gave people a preview of the salsa that will hit H-E-B shelves on April 4.
“We plan on being part of things like this,” said Mendiola, who helped sponsor the music for the event. H-E-B, another festival sponsor, offered free reusable tote bags and snack samples for shoppers. H-E-B employees from the market on South Flores helped pass out the snacks and invited attendees to stop by the store.
Visitors of all ages swayed and danced as local musicians and bands like Melissa Ludwig and Elijah Zane and the Experience played in the center of the park. Conjunto legend Eva Ybarra, scheduled for late afternoon performance, also promised to draw a large crowd.
Young artists illustrated their state pride at the Pinot’s Palette station, as friends and families admired paintings of the Texas Bluebonnet and the North Mockingbird. The Briscoe Western Art Museum offered a playful, accessible way to learn about state history using paper dolls. Museum staff were present to explain the stories of Texas legends – Selena Quintanilla, “Bulldogger” Bill Picket, Chicano printmaker Sam Coranado and Susanna Dickinson – who were all represented on paper.
“It’s not just white, Texan cowboys who are our Texas heroes and icons,” said Briscoe Communications Manager Sharon Garcia. “We wanted to broaden peoples ideas of history and Texas history, and relate them to the Briscoe’s own artifacts or exhibits on display at the museum.”
Other family-friendly activities included historic costume changes at the Institute of Texas Cultures and a Monarch butterfly kite-making table to celebrate the official state insect. By noon, the crowd appeared to be nearly double the size it was when the festival opened at 10 a.m.
“My personal goal is for Mockingbird Fest to outgrow Hemsifair,” Hicks said. “I want it to pour into La Villita, Southtown and bring people from all over the country to (San Antonio) once a year to see what Texans are into, what the state is doing.”
*Top Image: Local San Antonio artist Tracey Ashenfelter displays her colorful freestyle paintings. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.