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The First Fiesta UTSA, 1978

April 17, 2009

Sarah Garrahan selling Fiesta UTSA (“Ootsa”) buttons for the Alumni Association.

Today, students celebrate the 31st annual Fiesta UTSA (rain or shine!). Back on April 14, 1978, photographer Gil Barrera was at the scene of the first ever Fiesta UTSA, capturing the festivities in several dozen photos.

The first Fiesta UTSA was celebrated by more than 1,000 UTSA students. Here’s how the event is described in a 1978 press release from the News & Information Office: “They devoured jalapeños, dunked professors and sampled food and drinks at more than 26 booths from noon to 6 p.m. on the UTSA central plaza.

“The championship in the citywide collegiate armadillo race went unclaimed when the Our Lady of the Lake University entry didn’t show and UTSA students were unable to replace their entry, King Kong, who broke out of his cage last week.

“But that didn’t hamper the festivities. UTSA senior John R. Fragosa won the watermelon seed spitting contest by spitting a seed 32 feet. The contest was sponsored by the UTSA chapter of the Kiwanis Circle K Club.

“The hottest competition of the day was a jalapeño eating contest sponsored by the UTSA Student Representative Assembly. Judges declared a tie between Robert Trevino, Jr. and Chris Kouwen with each eating 28 jalapeños.

“Bands played throughout the afternoon and students ended Fiesta UTSA with a dance in the school cafeteria.” (Press release from the University Communications Records, UA 16.01.)

A selection of Fiesta UTSA photographs from the Gil Barrera collection (click each to enlarge):

Dean of Students Dora Grossenbacher awaits certain dunking.
Students Mark Whitney and Janet Landreth enjoy the cascarones (Mark more than Janet, I’m guessing)
Students Norma Wheatley and Ron Hare at the kissing booth
Mary Ellen Gomez at the jalapeño eating contest (sadly, not the winner). I believe the sign behind her is telling us that the prize was a case of Lone Star!
This unidentified guitarist kicked off a long tradition of bands performing at Fiesta UTSA
The Sombrilla, where Fiesta is held each year (weather permitting)
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