Austin Samba performers lead the way down the parade route in their elaborate costumes in the 2017 Mermaid Promenade. Daily Record archive photos by Colton Ashabranner
Third Annual Mermaid Promenade
The Mermaid Society SMTX will be putting their tails to the pavement on Saturday, Sept. 22 for the 3rd Annual Mermaid Promenade.
Plans are already being made and floats are being designed for this year’s celebration of San Marcos’ unique and vibrant creative community, and the iconic mermaid symbol that embodies the spirit, heritage and culture of city of San Marcos and the river that runs through it.
The Mermaid Promenade is a cornerstone event of the annual Mermaid Society SMTX SPLASH Festival – SPLASH standing for stewardship, preservation, local, arts, sustainability and heritage – a celebration of all things San Marcos.
With over 5,000 spectators and nearly 100 entries in 2017, the parade continues to entice generations to come out and enjoy the free community event. It pays tribute to the historic Aquarena Springs Amusement Park – and the Aquamaids that performed there – as well as pays homage the the unique history and ecology of the San Marcos River.
Austin Samba and Las Monas de San Antonio will lead the parade, bringing their brand of “radical creativity, fantasy and imagination” to the streets with a sizzling combination of rhythm, dance, movement, color, joy and giant mermaid puppets. From marching bands to floats teeming with mermaids to individuals in some of the most colorful homemade outfits joining the promenade – locals and non-locals alike can revel in the spirit of the occasion.
In fact one group, traveling from all over the United States – from several Texas towns, as well as Tampa, Florida; Fayetteville, Arkansas; San Francisco, California and Watkinsville, Georgia – is coming back this year just for the Mermaid Promenade.
Cousins Cassy Franco and Frida Aguilar had a front-row seat to view the promenade.
The group is a gathering of eight Southwest Texas State University almuna – Karen Michael, Jani Taylor, Carrie Spisak Lang, Melody Raffen-Easterling, Angel Hunt Davis, Kim Fedosky Brinson, Mary Anderson and Melanie Mc-Mullen – all 1979-1982 Southwest Texas State University women's swim team, nationally-ranking college athletes.
The group first stumbled upon the event in 2017, while attending a Texas State University alumni event. It had been the first time the group had seen each other in 35 years, but it was the start of an annual custom. The group is coming back this year and instead of watching the parade from the sidelines, they’ve reserved a spot in the procession.
“We reunited last year and while we were there we just happened on the mermaid festival,” Michael said. “We went to the parade and we just flipped. So we all decided to do it again this year, but this time we’ll be in the parade.”
The group will be on a golf cart decked out in sequin fabric, all wearing matching shirts with “SWTSU Mermaids at heart” on the back.
According to McMullen, several of the Southwest Texas State University women’s swim team members – including Melody Raffen-Easterling – were once Aquamaids at the Aquarena Springs Park underwater shows.
“We feel like that was such a big piece of the fabric of our lives – both spending so much time in that river and now actually being in this parade,” McMullen said. “It’s special to be there with my best friends from college in the town we love.”
The parade line-up starts at the corner of CM Allen and Cheatham Street and offers plenty of viewing options along the route. The fun continues at the Mermaid Aqua Faire immediately following the parade at the San Marcos Main Park Plaza from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Kamyrn Harvay of Gonzales was front and center for the Mermaid Promenade in 2017. Dressed as a mermaid, she danced alongside the parade route in awe of the floats and costumes.
There will be plenty of viewing options along the parade route and parade announcers will introduce registered participants as they pass. Check in at several eateries along the parade route that plan to host spectator parties and parade fun – Patio Dolcetto , Aquabrew, Sean Patricks, Root Cellar Bakery, Blue Dahlia Bistro and CraftHouse all have planned events.
Every year the Mermaid Society SMTX highlights selected honorees representing the arts, river guardianship and heritage of San Marcos during the parade. Each person nominated either represents San Marcos’ creative community, preserves and safeguards local history or serves as guardians of the San Marcos River and its inhabitants.
Honorees this year include Rodney van Oudekerke as the King of SPLASH, Dianne Wassenich as Mermaid Queen, Christopher Paul Cardoza as Art Honoree, Dr. Andrew Sansom as River Guardian Honoree, the Calaboose African American Museum as Heritage Honoree and Randolph Goodman will serve as the parade grand marshal.
New to this year’s celebrations is the Mer-Folk Royal Court. The Mer-Folk Royal Court accompanies the Mermaid Queen, the King of SPLASH, Parade Grand Marshal and Honorees during the Mermaid Society Art Ball, Mermaid Promenade and Mermaid Aqua Fair.
Those that wish to nominate someone for one of the six Mer-Folk Royal Court positions, can submit a nomination online. Nominations are restricted to individuals that represent a community group or nonprofit organization. Nominees selected will receive two Mermaid Society Art Ball tickets with VIP parking, be recognized in the 2018 SPLASH Royalty during the Mermaid Promenade and Mermaid Aqua Faire. A total of six nominees will be selected. All submissions must be in by Aug. 31 and the recipients will be announced by Sept. 3 on the Mermaid Society SMTX Facebook page.
The fun continues immediately following the parade at the Mermaid Aqua Faire at San Marcos Park Plaza from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Mermaid Society is a nonprofit organization and sponsorship funding supports production costs associated with the festival. For more information on attending or sponsoring Mermaid Society SMTX Splash 2018 events, visit their website.