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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

San Antonians, Visitors enjoy safer, successful Fiesta

Anne Keever Cannon (photo)
Fiesta 2008 Public Relations

Fiesta 2008 exceeded expectations, organizers report.

● More than half the Fiesta nonprofit organizations responding to a survey said their events broke attendance records this year.

● The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission reported significant improvements at Fiesta events regarding keeping alcohol away from minors.

● About 500,000 residents and visitors enjoyed the Fiesta Carnival at its new Alamodome location, according to city estimates. Carnival officials said their April 16 opening day set an attendance record.

● San Antonio Police Department officials reported that crime was down compared to 2007 both at the carnival and in the nearby neighborhood.

“As I visited Fiesta events, many of the organizers said they were having a great year,” said John Steen, president of the Fiesta San Antonio Commission. “I was especially impressed at the Fiesta Flambeau Parade. I’ve never seen so many people along the route.”

With the Fiesta Carnival in a new location, Parking Lot C at the Alamodome, city officials put in motion a plan to ensure its safety and communicate with residents in nearby neighborhoods. A special hotline set up by the city received just 10 calls, said Capt. Jose
Bañales, chief of the Fiesta Carnival Detail. Most, he said, were about parking infractions.

Crime in the area around the Alamodome between April 16th and 27th dropped 21 percent vs. the comparable dates in 2007 (when the Fiesta Carnival was still downtown), said Sandy Gutierrez, senior SAPD public information officer. Bañales credited the reduction to increased police presence in the area.

Fiesta organizations that sell or serve alcohol worked hard to educate their staffs, volunteers and visitors about underage drinking, said Lt. Tina Guerra, TABC enforcement officer. As a result, only two TABC teen decoys were able to purchase drinks at Fiesta events. TABC officers also reported a drop in the number of charges and arrests they made at the carnival and other Fiesta events.
“I’m still smiling. This was an awesome year,” Guerra said. “Whenever you have a push toward one specific public safety issue
like stopping alcohol sales to minors—it has a tendency to spill over to other areas. When kids aren’t drinking, they may not get into other kinds of trouble.”

Although attendance was about half a million over the 12-day run, there were very few problems of any kind at the site of the 2008 Fiesta Carnival. Police statistics indicate only 16 arrests.

“That’s a 66 percent reduction in arrests at the carnival in 2008 compared to 2007, and a 75 percent reduction compared to 2006,” Bañales said. The 2008 figure includes an April 25 stabbing death.

Though three people lost their lives during Fiesta in traffic accidents where alcohol was involved, “what we know up to now suggests that these three fatalities were not related to Fiesta,” Steen said.

“We’ve learned that one accident took place after the driver left a friend’s house,” he said. “Another had a can of beer in his vehicle, and Fiesta events don’t sell beer by the can. Regarding the third fatality, the time and location of the crash and direction the vehicle was traveling do not suggest a link to any Fiesta event.”
“Overall, impaired driving charges in San Antonio during Fiesta were lower in 2008 than for the previous 2 years,” Guerra said.

The Fiesta San Antonio Commission is a nonprofit organization that plans, coordinates and preserves Fiesta San Antonio through the support of its participating member organizations. Visit its website at

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