PACfest unites the South Side community

Story by Elizabeth Ledesma, Pulse staff writer
Photos by Armando Padilla, Pulse staff editor 

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PACfest 2013, an official Fiesta San Antonio event, was the site of colorful papel picado strung between trees and booths, live music, and the sweet, mouth-watering smell of funnel cakes, turkey legs and aguas frescas.

PACfest is a free, non-alcoholic, family-friendly event held on the South Side of San Antonio at Palo Alto College.  Since 1988, PACfest has blossomed into a community-wide event and was made an official Fiesta San Antonio event in 2004 that is registered with the Fiesta Commission.

“I look forward to this event every year,” said Janie Rodriguez, a local community attendee.  “We’ve been coming [to PACfest] since 2002 and like the fact that there’s no alcohol, security is always alert and there’s a lot of food.”

This year, Erica Gonzaba, former Miss Fiesta and local singer/songwriter hosted PACfest.  This was her first time to attend, and she was very impressed with the community support for the event.

Performances this year included a slew of local musicians.  Among them was PAC’s Mariachi Palomino; Pop Pistol, a local band voted Best Indie Rock band in 2012 by SA Current; Elora and Gasoline Alley, a young local rock/pop band made up of kids ranging in age from eleven to fourteen; Heather Go Psycho; Mario Flores & Soda Creek Band; Bombasta; and headliner Jay Perez.

More than 40 vendor booths made up of student and community groups lined the courtyard.  Many of these vendors have supported PACfest for years.  Linda Ramirez, owner of Sweet Classic Gifts, has been a vendor for the past seven years and looks forward to her continued relationship with the event.

“I really enjoy the friendly crowds, the music, the food, especially the funnel cakes,” she said.  “And I think it’s important to support an event that’s based out of the South Side because it’s helping to grow our community.”

Gloria Rangel, owner of Smokey Boyz, had the only vendor booth this year selling sausage wraps and turkey legs.  She’s been a PACfest vendor since 2007, and she looks forward to the event every year.  Between taking orders and selling out of turkey legs, Rangel said what she really enjoys most about the event is its family-friendliness.

Many student organizations also took advantage of the event to host booths to promote their club and raise funds for their organization.  Some of the student vendors included: Student Veterans Organization; Sigma Lambda; Society of Future Engineers; Chi Alpha Epsilon; Trio-Upward Bound; Student Government Association; Delta Sigma Omnicron; H.U.S.T.L.E. Youth Group; Otaku Alliance; Club Earth/¡Viva Verde!; Somos MAS; Future Educators of America; Horticulture Club; and Lone Star Agricultural Club.

“PACfest is a great way for us to get out there, raise money and educate [students] about our club,” said Stephanie Kersey, an Agriculture Education sophomore.

Jocelynn Mireles, sophomore Liberal Arts major and senator of student activities for SGA, said, “This was my first [PACfest] event; I’m tired, but it was fun.  I loved the food and ambience and how accessible it is to the community.”

¡Viva Verde! Go Green! volunteers helped PACfest attendees to recycle by placing recycling bins next to every trash can in the courtyard.  This is the fifth year this group has provided this service.  PACfest was the first official Fiesta event to recycle. This year also included many firsts. It was the first year PACfest officials raised money to fund the event, “PAC’s Got Talent Show” winners performed and Social Media Alley made an appearance.

Social Media Alley is something Andrew Valdez, senior multimedia specialist at PAC, has envisioned for a while.  With the help of the IT Department, he set up three flat screens in the center corridor of the courtyard that showed all the tweets that students, staff and community attendees posted with the PACfest hashtag

“I started working here in June and had seen this done at other events, so I just wanted to incorporate it into PACfest,” said Valdez.  “It’s mainly to engage with students and to get them talking about this event.”

Valdez was quite pleased with Social Media Alley’s response and looks forward to incorporating this into other PAC events.

Carmen Velasquez, director of Student Engagement and Retention, her staff and volunteers worked long hours to make this year’s event a success.  PACfest is an event that requires year-long planning, so for the remainder of May they will take a breather only to start planning for PACfest 2014, scheduled for Thursday, April 24, this summer.