The Eastside’s Hays Street Bridge was “tight,” as one attendee put it, with hundreds upon hundreds of people who convened for Soul Saturday, a free, family-friendly community mixer hosted by Good People SA and City Councilman Alan Warrick (D2).
Families, dogs, tourists, Eastsiders, and individuals from all over the city mixed and mingled as the day turned to night, listening to the live music provided by Grammy-award winning soul artist Bilal, who put the soul in Soul Saturday. Face painting, a live drumming class, chalk art and photo booths kept children busy while adults sipped on drinks from neighboring Burleson Yard, Alamo Beer Co., and Big Hops and snacked on culinary treats from the onsite food trucks such as Purple Pig BBQ, the Deep Phryer, Bombay Salsa Co., and more.
Considering the violence that has recently plagued the nation, it was inspiring to see such a large group of people come together in peace.
“This is badass,” said more than one attendee. The area was buzzing with people from far and wide places all over the city – one woman drove 40 minutes from her home to attend the event.
Warrick’s office partnered with BethanyEast to help manage and bring the event together.
The first Good People SA event was in 2012. The series was created to bring transplants and San Antonio natives together and to introduce networking opportunities. Past events have brought diverse crowds of 600-1,500 attendees from different parts of town, most of them Millennials, or other community members hoping to dive into the entrepreneurial community, Christian Reed-Ogba, co-owner of BethanyEast PR & Mgmt. Consulting and the organizer of Good People SA events, previously told the Rivard Report.
Soul Saturday was the first time that vendors were allowed to participate in the festivities. Vendors of all kind set up booths along the Hays Street Bridge and the surrounding area. Food, baskets, clothes, soap, jewelry, glasses, hats, rag dolls,– you name it – it was all probably there. Different farmers markets such as the Trinity Market, People’s Nite Market, and Dignowity Hill Farmers Market set up mini markets to showcase their products or produce. It was as if thousands of little shops took over the space, a strong symbol that speaks to a place that desperately needs development.
“The event highlights an area of town that already should have been developed,” Warrick said. “We’re .3 miles from the Alamo and you have burned down and vacant buildings, it doesn’t make any sense. We’re putting a parking in underneath the bridge – 150 parking spaces – so next year when we have Soul Saturday I expect to see three more businesses, or maybe even some loft apartments, all of it’s gonna be the coolest area in town.”
Good People SA events typically emphasize honest community interaction, without business pitches or vendors. But organizers intended for Soul Saturday to be a platform that married both ideas, allowing community members to also promote their endeavors.
A small business expo featured about 50 small businesses ranging from retail, homeware, real estate developers, and service-oriented companies. The expo showcased the entrepreneurial growth occurring in San Antonio, an inspiration to many of those in attendance.
“This is really nice for the family,” said attendee Bonita Henderson. “The location is perfect, there should definitely be more events like this in the area.”
“This positive community (and the turnout) for the event shows that development can happen anywhere; we’ve just gotta highlight that,” Warrick added.
Hosting such an event on the Eastside was also a way to portray the area’s growth to all of San Antonio.
Warrick said the area is safe and that popular places like Burleson Yard are putting the area on the map. He talked about events like First Friday on King William and how investors took note of that and development later blossomed.
“The dream is really to shut down the street every Saturday just like 6th street in Austin and it’s a block party, a place where San Antonians come to be San Antonians.”
For Warrick, the Soul Saturday event is a glimpse of the future.
“I want to create a downtown for San Antonians between the Pearl and Southtown,” he said. “This area has got so much potential. Once people see that there’s so much potential, that development happens.”
Editorial Assistant Rocío Guenther contributed to this report.
Top image: Hundreds of people walk up and down the Hays Street Bridge during SA Good People Soul Saturday. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.