Fireworks explode next to the Tower of the Americas on New Year's Eve.
Fireworks explode near the Tower of the Americas on New Year's Eve, 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Carnival festivities, food vendors, and music brought South Alamo Street to life Monday night for the City’s official New Year’s Eve celebration marking the end of the Tricentennial year.

A crowd police estimated at 150,000 moved between the booming musical performance stages and the flashing carnival. With the street closed to traffic, spectators strolled past carnival games, rides, and food vendors as they enjoyed the music from the Hemisfair stage throughout the night.

When midnight struck, fireworks streaked up to the sky and came down in vibrant sparks of color. The crowd that meandered through Hemisfair most of the evening stood still and looked up. This was how San Antonio came into 2019 and its fourth century as a city.

Hosted by the San Antonio Parks Foundation and the Tricentennial Commission, Celebrate SA! featured an all-local musical lineup to kick off the new year.

“This has been a historic year and the work of the Tricentennial will leave a meaningful legacy for our community,” said Mary Jane Verette, president and CEO of the San Antonio Parks Foundation. “We wanted everyone to feel like they were coming to a hometown party where everyone was invited, that they would be with friends and family at the start of a new year.”

Musicians performed on stages set up in Hemisfair, La Villita, and Maverick Plaza. The styles of music varied widely, from electronica to country covers to Tejano, showcasing San Antonio’s diverse music scene.

The Hemisfair main stage acts included South Texas soul band Eddie and the Valiants, Country Cover band The Texases, DJ Red Mamba (commonly known as former Spurs forward Matt Bonner), and Rolling Stones cover band The Satisfactions, with Garrett T. Capps and D.T. Buffkin.

As the artists took their turns on the Hemisfair stage, crowds filtered in and out. Edward Hernandez, Eddie and the Valiants’ leader and guitarist, said the event provided an opportunity for the City to showcase local music and history.

“The music has this totally original style and flair that you’re not going to get anywhere else but San Antonio,” Hernandez said of his band’s sound. “It needs to be recognized for the bigger masses, and this event was that. Especially with the Tricentennial celebration, it makes perfect sense that it was all local bands. It’s really going to open up doors and make San Antonians appreciate their own city.”

To cap the celebration of San Antonio’s 300th anniversary, the Tricentennial Commission compiled a video that featured highlights of the year: Commemorative Week marking the city’s founding, the visit from the King and Queen of Spain, and projects of the Serve 300 volunteer service initiative. Large screens flanking the main stage displayed the videos throughout the night.

“Through the highlight clips, it’s easy to see how our community came together to learn about our diverse cultures, give back through service, reflect on our complex past and how San Antonio was truly on a world stage throughout the year,” said Tricentennial Commission spokeswoman Laura Mayes.

As the fireworks burst in the background, longtime San Antonio resident Bardon Lazcano reflected on the event and the city he grew up in.

“I love the vibe downtown and being around everyone in San Antonio, especially this time of year,” Lazcano said. “It’s such a unique place to live. There’s really a different kind of culture here. Being downtown on this night, with all these people, it really makes me feel like I am at home.”

Laura Morales is a freshman studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a contributor to The Daily Texan.