Port San Antonio sprawls across the southern portion of the city formerly known as Kelly Air Force Base and is now home to a variety of tech companies and educational resources. “Port San Antonio is the redevelopment of the old Kelly Air Force Base and what we’re doing is bringing new industries and new technologies to it,” describes Jim Perschbach, CEO of Port San Antonio. “We’ve got about 13,000 people working on this property, about 83 different companies. Everybody from Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grumman down to some exciting startups like Plus One Robotics.” Saturday, within this unique hub of San Antonio’s continually-growing tech scene, San Antonio’s youth gathered for a truly special Fiesta event…Fiesta de los Niños.
Rosalie Pecina, a volunteer at the event, described the purpose of the day’s festivities. ”We’ve been doing this for about 15 years. We are an official Fiesta sanctioned event and it is geared towards children and their families,” Pecina said. “This year we’ve added the element of technology. We’ve got a robotics tent and we also have a gaming tent, which the kids have totally taken to.”
The day’s events started out with a bang, as confetti guns shot multi-colored papers into the air to announce the beginning of the Fiesta de los Niños parade. Fire trucks, children’s cheer teams, robotics teams and junior adult roller-blade teams paraded down the street, handing out plastic party necklaces and candy as they strutted by. With Saturday’s bright spring-like weather, children and their parents strolled throughout the expansive festival grounds taking in all the festivities. At the entrance of the event stood SAMSAT, where parents and kids wandered in and out, looking at the various electronic gizmos of yesteryear. Founded in 2016, SAMSAT (The San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology) is located in the centermost sector of the old Air Force base and features attractions designed to engage children with technology and history, housing everything from a working model of a Tesla Coil to the first camera phone. While families filed up the steps of the museum, a theremin loudly announced the presence of each one of its visitors. Many children stopped to play with the sound-emitting electronic device, grabbing the attention of everyone around.
Once visitors made their way past the entrance, they were greeted by rows and rows of tech-centered pop-up tents as well as the Geekbus, the outreach vehicle for a company called Systemic. Jennifer Ireland, an on-site representative for Geekbus talked about the organization’s purpose and what brought them to Fiesta de los Niños. “We go to schools around the San Antonio area and Southern Texas and we teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and when we travel to schools we bring all our own equipment,” describes Ireland. “We’re here to support the Port and the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology, that’s where our offices are. We partner with them so much. Schools will come tour the museum and we’ll teach them, so we thought this was a great opportunity to support both of them so we came out.”
Another notable tent within the festival ground was the Gaming Tent. With rows and rows of computers (many of which were provided by Microsoft), headphone-wearing children maneuvered mouses and joysticks to take in some of today’s best gaming experiences. Present at the event were Johnnie Ramon (Megafox), Aaron Perez (Amongstar), and Alex Che (Buddy), three of San Antonio’s best competitive gamers who came out to help build excitement about competitive gaming in the city. John Anguiano from Microsoft Sports and Sam Elizondo from LFG Cybercafe were also on-site to host the Gaming tent and talk to kids about the growing eSports scene in San Antonio. “Realistically with the Port’s new initiatives to the gaming and eSports phase, you know they have a lot of stuff going on with the engineering side as well,” Elizondo said. “That’s why we’re here. To show that San Antonio does have a community for gaming and eSports like that and we’re excited to stand behind any entity (Port SA) that wants to support that idea.”
Directly to the front of the Gaming Tent stood the stage where Congressman Will Hurd and District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales would address the audience about the importance of this event and getting youth involved with technology. “It’s wild to think San Antonio has been enjoying Fiesta for 128 years. We’ve added not only having a good time but celebrating our culture,” stated Hurd in an interview with the Sentinel. “It’s groups like Port San Antonio which is changing the landscape of San Antonio, bringing in tech jobs and making sure young kids have good jobs. And so it’s a great opportunity to come out here and talk to kids.”
A car show also took place towards the back of Fiesta de los Niños. where owners and collectors of vintage automobiles had the opportunity to display their cars to those in attendance. From Mustangs to Bel Airs to lowriders, Fiesta attendees had the opportunity to see award-winning classic cars from around the Alamo City while owners proudly stood next to their prized vehicles, waiting to answer any questions from curious Fiesta-goers.
Towards the front of the event grounds, tucked away in a corner behind a book-signing event, sat Spare Parts, an organization which specializes in advancing “re-use and sustainability through the arts and creativity.” They set up a booth specializing in toy repair which allowed children to come to them to have their favorite toys fixed for free by the organization. “We have set up our Toy Repair Clinic, which means that kids can come out here to the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology and bring their toys and, whether it’s a mechanical issue or just old and the stuffing is coming out, we can help them repair it,” describes Mary Cantu, founder of Spare Parts. “It’s a STEAM (Science, Technology, Art and Math) based activity where we’re being creative and helping out with mechanics and other things.” Cantu further described how important the technology portion of Fiesta de los Niños is to the city: “We love that this Fiesta event is incorporating science, technology, engineering, art, and math because it is part of celebrating the city and getting our young people engaged in and thinking about different careers and making these opportunities accessible to everybody.”