Working the Fiesta Parades, Camera in Hand


After video-taping two parades over the course of a very long Saturday, I’m beat and more than a little bit dehydrated. We’ll see if all these Tecates will help to remedy the problem.

I’d already agreed to shoot the night parade–Fiesta Flambeau Parade (purported to be the largest night parade in the country)–and so I’d already steeled myself for Saturday afternoon and evening. And then, I believe it was Thursday, I got a call from someone who wanted me to video tape the King William Parade. (Thanks to Slab Cinema for the referral!)

Now I usually shoot much of the parade as it passes in front of my house. Sometimes, I do a quick cut and make like a music video of the highlights and post it on my video blog. But money was involved here, and, you know, bringing with it certain expectations. Not a half-ass video blog being expectation number one, I’d assume.

The weather reports looked clear for Saturday, so I was relieved. But for some reason I didn’t look at the prediction for Friday night. I went to bed around midnight. An hour later I woke. Thunder, loud wind, and then the clatter of hail. It grew fierce in intensity. I was actually hoping it would destroy my neighbor’s new flood lights. Ad then I became afraid it’d destroy the windshield on my truck. I walked out onto my covered porch and allowed myself to enjoy the quasi-apocalyptic storm. Once the fava bean-sized hail gave way to rain and only rain, I went back to bed.

I woke around seven o’clock. Beautiful weather. Cool but not cold. Not so humid as Friday. And a clear blue sky. There wasn’t much in my kitchen to eat, so I made a couple of avocado and cheese tacos and some peppermint tea. I really need to get to the store sometime. I reviewed what I’d need for the day.

I’d thought my biggest problem would be decided on what pair of shoes (or pairs of shoes, to use in a rotation) would best suit a bunch of walking around.

But when I checked out the spare battery to my DVX camcorder, I realized it was dead. I had it charging all day Friday. And late Saturday night the charger fell off my table and the battery slipped out. I left them there, planning to deal with the matter later, knowing full well that the battery was fully charged. Come Saturday morning I learned that not only was it not fully charged, it had no charge at all. And when I placed it back in the charger for an hour and then tried it–nothing. It was dead. Not able to hold a charge. Can this happen when a battery is dropped? Fuck!

Shoes became the lesser of my problems. Because, with the parade only minutes away I learned my one working battery was only charged to about 45 percent.

So I found myself shooting frugally.

I started off the morning shooting with Deborah. I’d thought she’d left town to visit with family, but she postponed her weekend trip by a day. She was taking stills, I was shooting video, and somewhere around Guenther and King William I lost sight of her.

I had a great time. It was the first time I’d walked the entire King William Parade route since Nikki talked me into joining the SATCO (San Antonio Theater Coalition) float. That might have been the first year I moved to King William–all I know for sure is that it was some years back, and I had a lot a fun.

Many of the people in the parade I know. But I also met some good people on the parade route. Annele Spector, for one. And, of equal importance, TJ Gonzales, Lisa Cortez Walden, and their beautiful baby daughter, Sophia. Rick and Angela from Slab Cinema. And then there was Annette. I also saw two women who I know only as FaceBook “friends” and neither recognized me. And then there was some pretty girl who shouted out, “Hi, Erik!” It was on Madison Street (I think), and I turned, smiled, and said, Hi. But I have no idea who she was. It might have been one of those out-of-context things. Anyway, if I snubbed you at the King William Parade (or any Parade), I’m sorry. I’m painfully neurotic and socially awkward.

Maybe in the week ahead I’ll post some video of the King William Parade. I just wish I had found the time to have taken some photos.

[It’s Tuesday, as I finally post this, and I have a little bit of video to embed!]

I headed back home. That’s when I realized I really wanted some coffee. But I had none. I stuffed my video equipment in a bag and rode my bike over to C4 Workspace. C4 is situated just outside the King William Fair event grounds. Todd and Debbie thought it’s be a good idea to keep their doors open, and try and spread the good word of co-working.

It was a bit of a chore moving through my neighborhood, even on a bike. King William is stupidly crammed with humanity during the whole day of the Parade and the Fair.

I made myself a pot of coffee, and I recharged my lone camcorder battery (I’d panicked earlier, thinking that even THIS battery wouldn’t hold a charge–but I realized I’d been mistaken). So, I had a nice time talking with Todd, Debbie, and Venus, while drinking coffee and recharging my battery.

Venus was there, showing some of her art.


Next I biked home, took another shower, changed into my URBAN-15 t-shirt, stuffed my shoulder bag with various camera equipment, and rode my bike down S. Presa to the URBAN-15 Studios.

I shot video and still images of the drum and dance ensembles posing for the panorama photos that they commission every year during Fiesta to have an archive of their costumes as well as those ensemble members active during that year.





And after the photos, we waited.

After a couple of hours, the two hired buses arrived.

I’ve seen URBAN-15 preform on many occasions, but I’d never been with them as they travel to one of these major events. They pride themselves on the speed and proficiency in which they can load and unload their costumes, instruments, and equipment from the tour buses, an important quality in the parade business.

The buses dropped us off near our staging region, which was thankfully in the shade of of the highway overpass near Grayson and Broadway.

We had some time to kill before the parade began, so I wondered around, looking at the floats and costumed organizations. I also bought my one and only Fiesta food stand item this year, a very tasty gordita.

As the sun set, the dancers got into their elaborate costumes. The drummers did some warm-up playing. And then everyone set about turning on their LED lights, affixed to costumes, headgear, instruments, and just about everywhere.

And it began. We took a block of Grayson Street, past Sam’s Burger joint, and then got onto Broadway. The people who run this parade have the logistics down solid. It moved smoothly and without mishap.

I had been using a little onboard battery operated light on my camera. It is only good for maybe fifteen feet. So I was happy to see all the lights set up on Broadway as we came up on Maverick Park. I was in the middle of the URBAN-15 performers, getting some nice footage. URBAN-15’s parade leader motioned me to the outside, near to curb. He told me that this is where the TV cameras were set up, taping the parade live. And as a photo opportunity, I can understand not wanting some video dorks scurrying about, taking focus off the performances. I just wish I’d know in advance.

We then dog-legged onto Alamo Street so that the parade could pass by the Alamo. I hurried ahead so I could position my camera in such a way as ti record URBAN-15 passing the landmark building. We continued past the River Center Mall and took a right on Commerce. We headed west, to Main Plaza, City Hall, and then north on San Saba, to where the buses were waiting on us.

The dancers and drummers removed their bulky costumes and their drums and stowed everything away. We were on the buses, roll calls made, and we pulled away. It couldn’t have taken more than 7 minutes to breakdown, load up, and move out.

It was fairly intense. All very professional and well-executed. And I mean both from URBAN-15, their support crew, as well as the parade planners. Also, the police were great throughout the entire route.

My understanding is that the Flambeau Parade attracts about half a million people. And from the densely packed crowds all along the three point something mile route, I don’t doubt.

We were back at the URBAN-15 Studios on S. Presa while the crowds all along the route were still fumbling for their park-and-ride return tickets.

A long day.


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