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Fiesta San Antonio Succeeds with Expanded Social Media Presence
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Fiesta San Antonio can be seen as one city-wide fair, but essentially it’s a collection of events occurring simultaneously. Many fairs may be community oriented annual traditions that bring awareness to the regional agricultural industry, but they are also crucial fundraising events for the nonprofit that runs the fair as well as raising other funds, such as for scholarships.

Fiesta San Antonio raises funds for the Fiesta San Antonio Commission, but the 110 events that are held during the 10 day commemoration of the Battle of the Alamo are fundraising opportunities for the organizations. In fact, 97 nonprofit organizations host the events and rely on them for their fundraising efforts. 

97 Organizations

?“Every year we try to make things better and run more efficiently,” said Amy Shaw, Executive Director, Fiesta San Antonio Commission. “All of 97 organizations benefit from Fiesta, and all those organizations have their own communities and supporters who come out, and that makes Fiesta  a lot more powerful and a celebration of the diversity of our city. The general feeling is that it was a very good year.”

?The Fiesta model of helping organizations help others has been an effective paradigm. Shaw pointed out that nonprofit organizations with similar citywide celebrations attended the San Antonio event to study their methodology. “We love to invite other festivals and get their feedback,” she said. “At our farewell reception, one festival organizer, when he came up to me and said this is what America should be, all different people coming together, too bad you can’t bottle this for the rest of the country, it’s exactly what we need.”

The array of the abundance of events is dizzying, ranging from music festivals, neighborhood fairs to talent contests and food tastings. Fiesta also features parades through the city, including the Fiesta Pooch Parade, the Texas Cavaliers River Parade and the Fiesta Battle of Flowers, the largest and most well-publicized of the parades.  The Battle of Flowers parade is the nucleus of Fiesta, which originated in 1891 as an April 21 salute to the heroes of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. 

“We do much logistically with street closures for the parades,” Shaw said. “We have more than half a million people seeing the parades. There were around 700,000 people along the route for the Battle of the Flowers parade.”

Economic Impact

With multiple “people’s parades” and an eclectic slew of events, Fiesta’s closest analogy is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. In fact, the city has promoted Fiesta as a Family Friendly Mardi Gras for the past several years. This strategy of inclusion and wholesome values has proven a winning marketing strategy, enabling the event to adapt to changing demographics and population growth of the city. Every 10 years, the Fiesta San Antonio Commission conducts an Economic Impact study, and according to Shaw, the most recent study for (the year 2017), showed that economic impact of the Fiesta was $340 million, a decade earlier that impact was $285 million. 

Besides a mission refocusing, one change during the decade between studies was the moving of the Fiesta Carnival to the parking lot of the Alamodome, expanding the footprint to about 40 rides. Fiesta Carnival  is a quasi-home base for Fiesta and the main fundraising stream for the Fiesta San Antonio Commission. The carnival is adjacent to the downtown area and the Hemisfair, a large city park originally constructed for the 1968 World’s fair. The park is the setting is for Fiesta Fiesta, the kickoff party for the citywide extravaganza, which was expanded in 2019 with concerts, and food and other vendors. 

?“Fiesta Fiesta is the kickoff and it’s a free event and art happening with kids activities and a lot of multicultural events. We doubled the attendance to about 10,000 and we’ve doubled the footprint, which has grown with the growth of Fiesta. It creates a lot of synergy with the carnival, which is nearby.”


Wade Shows Midway at the Alamodome

The move to the Alamodome “got a lot of free press and helped the carnival,” said Frank Zaitshik, President, Wade Shows, who manages the midway. “We widened the midway and did a few other things that were an improvement. Turning the Fiesta into a very family friendly event made a huge difference.”

But the strength of Fiesta – a vast coalition of organizations producing multiple events – can be challenge for the midway. “They are great people, but from a business perspective we have to reinvent ourselves because we are competing with the other events,” said Zaitshik. 

Admission is free for the carnival – the commission charges Wade Shows a flat fee – the one promotion Wade Shows did, a Dollar Day, unluckily fell on the one rainy day of the runand turned out to be a lost opportunity. 

Another more altruistic promotion was Fiesta Especial, “It was a lovely event for developmentally disabled children, and Wade Shows opened the carnival grounds for them and gave them free run, that has grown and the children really enjoy it,” said Shaw.

The move towards the Family Friendly Mardi Gras has been an ongoing progression for Fiesta San Antonio, but the success of the 2019 edition Shaw attributes mainly to two factors – weather and better social media marketing.

?Except for a rainy Dollar Day, the weather was ideal Texas springtime. “The general feedback has been very positive, and the weather has certainly helped,” said Shaw. “We had great weather nearly every day.”

Influential Influencers 

?The factor the commission did actually have control over – social media – was a stepped up for 2019. “We put a new emphasis on our engagement with fairgoers through social media,” said Shaw. She said that engagement, meaning sharing, reposts and comments – were up 280 percent compared to 2018. 

?One new ingredient this year was partnering with online influencers – bloggers, online writers and content providers – going across all the social media platforms. “We recruited influencers with large followings, and they provided content, or did things like take over our Instagram for a day,” she said.

?The influencers covered a “cross section” of topics, including food, music and a mommy blogger. She said that once one was on board for the project, more joined. “You have to have to be fluid and flexible and give them a specific object to write about. We committed our photographer to work with them, so we were able to have great pictures with their posts and content.” 

?She added, “sponsors are looking at who is following you and what your engagement level is, the number of posts you have and how many eyeballs saw that post and how many liked, commented or shared. The influencers increased our reach.” 

?The revamped social media, spike in engagement and utilization of local bloggers and other influencers reached the younger demographics and younger families. The online presence was furthered by hosting a podcast at the Fiesta Fiesta festivities, “The balance is you want to keep the traditional, but attract the newcomers to the city, to make them feel part of the community. We’re a nonprofit, so we rely a lot on social media and PR. We have gotten a lot of good feedback from our organizations and the people who came, it was a very good year.” 
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