Awesome SA, Downtown Tuesday and Hemisfair Park‘s new monthly Third Brewsday event collide Tuesday, Dec.18, in downtown San Antonio. This cheap-or-free triad makes it hard to say that there’s never anything interesting to do on a weeknight.

Haven’t heard of Awesome SA? The Rivard Report is a sponsor, check out our stories so far: Amazing! The Awesome Foundation Spreads to San Antonio (Aug. 2012) and Awesome SA: Sculpted Bike Rack for Inner City Kids Wins $1000 (Nov. 2012). Basically, board members collect ideas via their online submission form, review and decide which idea is the most awesome. Boom. That idea gets $1,000. No strings attached. Just be awesome. The local board is one of 60 Awesome Foundation chapters located worldwide. For more information, visit the Foundation’s website at

Awesome SA has picked up people from all over San Antonio as sponsors and board members.

Claudia Loya, Awesome SA Dean

“In May 2012 I read an article about an awesome project funded by the Awesome Foundation. This sparked an idea for the solution to the problem with San Antonio not being able to retain college graduates from the local universities that I had actually read about via the Rivard Report,” said Awesome SA Dean Claudia Loya, “I tweeted my idea and it surprisingly picked up interest. Jeff was one of the first to contact me about starting the San Antonio chapter and within a few months, we had our Awesome 10 (trustees).”

There are no concrete rules or guidelines to follow to submit ideas besides, “enhance the San Antonio community one way or another.” But there are some common elements that Loya personally looks for. [See this month’s finalists below.]

“Something that would evoke awe and wonder in our community, something they could call their own and not have to seek it out-of-town. I would love to see a group ask for funding for anything that brings out the inner creative kid in everyone, “Loya said. “Examples would be flash mobs, a giant group mural where everyone could contribute, a silent disco, a unique jungle gym, etc. I really believe things like this could hit a common interest in our diverse community and bring everyone together … we love seeing strange ideas.”

Usually held at Alamo Street Eat Bar in Southtown, the board decided to get a little closer to the downtown festivities at Hemisfair Park when announcing the winner this month at 6 p.m. – though will likely return to the nest in January.

Also a fledgling endeavor, Third Brewsday seems to match Awesome SA’s casual atmosphere.

“We liked the pop-up beer garden that we saw at the (Alamo Plaza) Better Block,” said Rachel Holland, communications and special events coordinator at Hemisfair. “This is just a hang outside in the park, taste some beer and enjoy San Antonio’s front porch kind of thing.”

Hemisfair Holiday Lights
Hemisfair Holiday lights. Photo from Hemisfair Park’s Facebook.

It’s also very close to the last night to vote in Mayor Julian Castro’s Light Up Downtown Holiday Contest – voting ends the following day, Dec. 19, Hemisfair Park is participating in the “Best Use of Space” portion.

Free samples of Batch 19, Henry Weinhard’s, Redd’s Apple Ale and Third Shift will be available while supplies last. This month’s Brewsday has a “country” theme and will feature live acoustic country music from Gabe Garcia, Mario Flores and Chris Salinas. Food trucks will be close by.

January will have a Mardi Gras theme, featuring jazz and creole food. Different beers will be featured for free tastings every month.

“As (the event) evolves, based on public feedback … There’s certainly the opportunity or the possibility to feature local beers,” Holland said. “We are completely open-minded to things like that.”

Drumming with Nina, an interactive performance, will start the event at 5 p.m., and bands will play through the evening until about 9 p.m. Inspiration 4 Life, a local non-profit, is planning a special surprise performance – though that’s all Holland would say “on the record.” The event is free and open to the public, families welcome, Holland said.

Check out the finalists for this month’s Awesome SA grant – in their own words and in no particular order:

Little Free Libraries in the Park by Meredith Ruiz – Volunteer Services, City of San Antonio, Parks and Rec. Dept.

A little about me:

I oversee the Volunteer Services division with San Antonio Parks and Recreation. We average about 20 projects a month ranging from graffiti clean ups and litter pick ups to tree plantings and recycling education. The volunteer base grows every month with awesome San Antonio citizens willing to pitch in to make our parks shine.

I LOVE my job and the opportunity it provides to explore new ideas like the Little Free Library concept.

Here’s my idea:

I have several adopt-a-park groups that would love to install little free libraries in their adopted parks. In a nutshell, this is a “take a book, leave a book” station that looks like an oversized (and cute!) bird house. So far, the first little free library has been a great success at Golden Community Park. My volunteers report that over 100 books have circulated through this station since it was installed last month! I am focusing on installing these in low-income areas with poor access to libraries and book stores.

Please see here for more info on the Little Free Library concept: I also submitted this idea to the Texas Public Radio’s Lighter Quicker Cheaper contest and it made it to the final stage. Lots of community support for this neat concept.

How I will use the money:

$250 per library x 3 libraries = $750 Cement and other building supplies for three stations = $200 Used books to initially stock each station = $50 The models would be either the “Friendly by Nature” or “The Basic” from here:

I am also open to building these locally rather than ordering online. If you know of any volunteer carpenters, please let me know! Three libraries could turn into 6+ with $1000!


Errand Boy Bicycle Delivery by Gem Abrahamsen – bike enthusiast, aspiring reporter, and serial Awesome SA finalist

A little about me:

My name is Gem, I’m 28. I’m a Gemini, I love to read, cook, paint, and I’m a bicycle advocate. I, like so many other Americans, have the dream of being my own boss, and I’m ready to make that happen.

Gem Abrahamsen

I’m re-applying for the Awesome Foundation’s grant (Hi y’all!) because I passionately love San Antonio and I want to make it the best place that I can. I live downtown, get around by bicycle, don’t drive, and I want to give this option to other people, even if they don’t ride a bike themselves.

Here’s my idea:

My fiance and I have lived downtown for the better part of a decade. We both love the vibrant diversity and uniqueness of San Antonio’s heart. We both love to ride bikes. We both got fed up and we decided to start our own business.

We wanted to do something that was enriching to the community, that was good for the environment, and created jobs for other people like us. We thought long and hard about what our talents had to offer, and what we (as residents) were missing.

Drawing on our combined experiences (he has been a bike messenger and delivery person for some time now, I’ve got deep roots in customer service with a real knack for web design and marketing) we arrived at the decision to start San Antonio’s newest errand service. The great part is that we’re doing it entirely by bicycle.

Our plan is simple. We will serve businesses and residences in the greater downtown San Antonio area. We can bring groceries, help with dry cleaning, mail outgoing parcels, and much more.

How I will use the money:

We will use the funds to purchase the freight trailers that we need and to provide comprehensive road safety training for our staff.

We pledge to pay this kindness forward by providing free assistance to vulnerable downtown residents through our first year in operation.


Madison Solar Car Initiative by Joseph Dungan – Madison High School Teacher, solar team advisor and director

A little about me:

I am Dr. Joe Dungan, PhD in biophysical chemistry from UCSB, & I teach preAP & AP chem at Madison HS after retiring from 21 years of biomedical research. Though chemistry is what I am most avid about I have a great passion for science, technology, engineering & math. At Madison I also serve UIL Science team, National Science Bowl team, & Solar Car team director. In 30 years of teaching (14 university & 16 HS) I have constantly sought beyond the classroom projects that teach real-world skills.

Here’s my idea:

Let me introduce you to a project that has been on-going at James Madison HS since 2010 – the Madison Solar Car Initiative (MadSCI)MadSCI’s mission is to advance knowledge and educate a wide diversity of students in science, technology, engineering, math, and other areas of scholarship that will ensure that they will best serve themselves, San Antonio, Texas, the nation, and the world in the 21st century. Founded two years ago, MadSCI provides opportunities for students of very diverse backgrounds and talents to apply classroom principles to a hands-on, real-world problem that involves designing, constructing, promoting, educating themselves and others about solar-electric vehicles, and racing these vehicles. Currently, we have designed, constructed, shown and raced two solar cars.

This project also develops engineering intuition and innovation, project and time management, and public speaking skills, just to mention a few. This is not the type of experience that can come from a classroom, nor even other extracurricular/scholastic activities. Rather, this is the type of major project that they could expect to be involved with working for a large corporation, government agency, or a private business. Building a “solar car” is much more than the “nuts and bolts” of engineering. It requires systems thinking at the broadest scale and touches on science, technology, engineering and math but also communication, publicity and fund-raising, policy, economics and the social sciences.

Each student learns what is involved in a major project in taking an idea from inception to completion and allows them to demonstrate individual and collective leadership. This project environment prepares them for life after Madison High School. An additional valuable aspect of MadSCI is that it promotes and educates the community about alternative forms of energy and transportation through its participation in national and international races, and state and local community and school events.

The only award that the team has won is the perseverance award at the National Shell Eco-Marathon competition last April.  We finished 9th out of 31 solar cars as a ?rst year entry at the National Solar Car Challenge.  We did beat all the other 4 ?rst year entries.  We plan to enter both these events again this year.  There are 36 students currently on the MadSCI team.  It has grown in just 23 months from 11 to 18 to 36 this school year.  This does not include 4 students that graduated last year and come back to serve as mentors for the current students. The students range from freshman to seniors.  The breakdown is as follows: 9th grade (4), 10th grade (13), 11th grade (10), seniors (9).  The group is also very diverse in terms of ethnicity and socioeconomics and is about 35% female.

How I will use the money:

The $1000 will go toward the battery pack and monitoring system needed for the Shell Eco-Marathon car we are in the process of designing and building.  We need to purchase the battery pack before February 1.  If the money does not go toward this (due to time constraints), we need parts for the new suspension we are putting on our existing car Helios to get it more open road worthy.  The deadline for that would be March 1.

The school just moved to a new space which, although larger, does not have the equipment that was available in the welding shop. This was necessary as the welding shop is too crowded with us in there to be useful and save. The much-needed money therefore would primarily go toward the equipment needed for the new shop and parts and supplies for building a new solar car and re-modeling our older cars, but also, for travel when we take our cars to events and schools around the city and state.


Mobile Adoption Vehicle by Ashlea Denton – UTSA grad, dog rescuer

A little about me:

I graduated from UTSA in 2008 with a BS in Biology. I have always been interested in animals. Growing up we always had a pack of rescue dogs on our ranch in south San Antonio. I completed my Girl Scout Gold Award by hosting a low-cost vaccination clinic for the pets in my economically depressed rural neighborhood. In 2010 I started a dog rescue with a publicly voted grant from Pepsi.

Here’s my idea:

About 6 months ago a fellow rescuer, that is dying from cancer, donated a UPS type van to our rescue. We have raised $1,500 so far. With this grant we would be able to get our van to adoption events. . We believe an adoption vehicle will help us increase adoptions by as much as %50. Saving many lives in the process. This is something San Antonio needs desperately to become No Kill!

How I will use the money:

The money would be used to install an awning and a plexiglass wall. The rest of the money we raised would be used for new tires and an inspection sticker.


River Taxi for the Masses by Brian Hanes – Urban living,  river cruising, life-long San Antonio(ing)

A little about me:

Brian Hanes

I am a native San Antonian born and raised. I lived in suburban SA most of my life and hardly ever went downtown, but moved to Tobin Hill off North St Mary’s about 4 years ago and I have never looked back. I love living in the middle of a growing and developing neighborhood. The Pearl Brewery area and the Tobin Hill Art on the Hill projects are wonderful and the neighborhood is improving all the time.

Here’s my idea:

I am working on getting the owners of the River Taxi service to offer a discounted 6 month or yearly pass to San Antonio residents. The benefit to offering a pass would be to all the business downtown that are on and around the river area. These business would see an increase in revenues and more foot traffic. Why rely on just tourists that visit certain times of the year? The barges are typically only 1 to 2 passengers currently. The second benefit would be to alleviate parking downtown. When residents can walk to some part of the river or park at the Pearl Brewery parking garage and then take the River Barge Taxi the need for parking downtown is alleviated. The discounted pass could even be supported/underwritten by the business on the river by means of a punch card so the owners of the businesses know that their funds are actually working for them.

How I would use the money:

I would use the money to further encourage the powers that be to offer the discount pass. I would create a sample card to show the how the cards would look and then contact businesses on the river to sell advertising on the card its self to further fund the project. I would also try to get Mayor Julian Castro involved.

So, what do YOU think? Who should win the RR Reader’s Choice Award this month? Leave your comments below and we’ll see you on Tuesday!
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San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.