For those who grew up dodging chanclas, the idea of a festival dedicated to the slipper-turned-projectile might bring back punishing memories. But organizers of Friday evening’s Westside Chancla Fest want to celebrate the chancla as a sign of love.

After a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus, the San Anto Cultural Arts nonprofit community arts center will return to holding its free annual Barrio Block Party, this time with a chancla-tossing theme — less in the sense of its traditional role as a form of discipline, and more about showing love and concern for those you care about.

“It’s really just a nice way to remind you when you need to be better,” said Ben Tremillo, San Anto’s executive director, of being on the receiving end of a chancla thrown by a mamá, tía or abuela. “The chancla is really more of an honoring of our culture and our past.”

Running from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. at San Anto Cultural Arts, 2120 El Paso St., the event is free.

Two blocks in the heart of the West Side will be closed to traffic, along Chupaderas Street from Guadalupe to El Paso streets. The area will be filled with an array of chancla-themed games, artmaking activities including chancla-painting, live music and youth DJs from the AM Project, food vendors, and art vendors from ubiquitous street artist Relek to muralist Crystal Tamez and Westside art stalwart Jose Cosme.

The Push Rods Car Club, a regular at San Anto events, will show off custom cars, and a live screenprinting station will be on hand to print San Anto Cultural Arts T-shirts designed by Marisol de la Garza. Shirts will be available for screen printing, or attendees can bring their own to be printed on, Tremillo said.

Artist Cruz Ortiz, a San Anto co-founder and former board member, plans to attend with his spouse Olivia Ortiz of Burnt Nopal creative design studio.

Ortiz said his extensive experience as a chancla target might benefit him in the festival’s chancla-throwing contests.

“I have had many a chancla thrown at me. So I would say I’m quite the veteran, I have some veteran moves. I can, you know, catch the chancla in mid-flight,” he said, laughing.

But Ortiz turned serious when talking about the reason for the block party, in offering a chance for community to gather after two years of pandemic isolation.

He said the pandemic, along with juggling additional difficulties of roiling politics and societal upset, has affected the community “in so many different ways. … The way we counter those kinds of things that are happening right now is culture. Culture is how we maintain our humanity.”

San Anto always accepts donations for its community mural and after-school activities programs, Tremillo said, but the focus of Chancla Fest is celebrating togetherness.

“We want to bring community together,” he said. “I think this year more than ever, we want to have community coming out and re-engaging with us and re-engaging with each other.”

And, of course, engaging with flying chanclas. “We’re honoring the power of the chancla,” Tremillo 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...