Queen of Carnival
San Marcos’ first Mardi Gras Krewe was named after the Greek deity of rivers, Okeanos, so it’s fitting that this year’s Queen of Okeanos has had a lifelong love for the beautiful clear rivers of Texas.
Cathy Dillon was raised in California but came to Houston in 1972 for graduate school in nursing. She stayed there for 15 years where she worked at the Methodist Hospital, and married her husband Mike Dillon. But the call of the Hill Country, where she had spent childhood summers on the Guadalupe River, was always strong. The couple spent most of their summer weekends canoeing the region’s many rivers, before deciding that the town of San Marcos felt like home. So in early 1984, they followed their love for rivers by moving here and opening the Crystal River Inn in a vintage Victorian house on Hopkins Street. The inn is now the oldest historic hotel in Texas that has been continually operated by original owners, and its 35th birthday is being celebrated this spring.
Over the years, the inn has hosted countless weddings and special events, brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to San Marcos, housed over 400 hurricane evacuees – some for months on end – and supported many charitable organizations.
Dillon has served on the Heritage Association’s Board of Directors in most positions including president, but since 1986 she has been especially devoted to the Heritage Home Tour. That in turn has led her to be an outspoken protector of the city's historic neighborhoods.
Perhaps her proudest single achievement is the Children’s Park Playscape, built in 1992 by 6,000 community volunteers. Dillon was a young mom at the time, and president of Junior Service League, when the group backed her “impossible” idea. Two years later, it became reality for generations of San Marcos children.
But Dillon's real heart is in tourism. Having served for years on the Convention and Visitors Bureau board, as well as president of the Texas Historic Hotel Association, Dillon is an industry leader. For this she has received accolades at state and local levels, including KVUE’s Jefferson Medal, the state historical commission’s Volunteer of the Year award, and the Rogers Family Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to San Marcos tourism.
This year, for her outstanding service to the community and to historic preservation, the Mistick Krewe of Okeanos is proud to crown her Queen of Carnival.