Community members and mermaid-lovers gathered in downtown San Marcos on Saturday to celebrate the city's arts, culture, heritage and its biggest point of pride, the San Marcos River, at the fifth annual Mermaid Promenade and Downtown Street Faire.
The Mermaid Society of Texas, a San Marcos-based organization with a mission to advocate for the river, celebrate the arts and promote heritage and diversity, has hosted the Mermaid Fest to represent the best of San Marcos since 2016.
The organization was founded in honor of the mermaids at Aquarena Springs Theme Park, a San Marcos attraction from the 1950s.
"The mermaid is important to San Marcos because they are San Marcos," said Cory Glisson-Munier, president of the Mermaid Society. "They were the history of San Marcos and of Aquarena Springs. And that was a key part of our history that put San Marcos initially on the map."
Mermaids, music and cheers from parade-goers filled the streets of The Square at the event's kickoff Saturday morning with the Mermaid Promenade. Following the parade, food vendors, small businesses and live music took up LBJ Drive and the Hays County Courthouse lawn for the Downtown Street Faire.
With the pandemic canceling last year's festivities, Glisson-Munier said he loved seeing the community come together to celebrate its vibrancy and history after staying inside for so long.
"We have people out here shopping, local artisans, we have the local businesses, we have people out here just having a good time. They're enthusiastic, they're not at home sitting," Glisson-Munier said. "We're getting the chance to have a break from our pandemic and have a chance to slowly get back to engaging in life and celebrating our community. That's an important direction to go for us."
Glisson-Munier said his favorite part of the day was seeing everyone, from college students to San Marcos locals, come together to celebrate the place they live.
Texas State students like Paige Hayes and Priscilla Inostroza made up a portion of the parade's volunteers. Hayes and Inostroza are members of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) at Texas State and heard about the volunteering opportunity from the organization's outreach coordinator.
After getting to carry a banner in the parade, they were able to walk around and visit the various tents and tables throughout the festival, such as a vintage clothing tent and a plant stand. Inostroza, a wildlife biology junior, said she liked the feeling of being welcomed into the community through her duties as a volunteer.
"It was a fun experience. We helped with the floats, and it was nice getting to participate in our community," Inostroza said.
Hayes, an early childhood education senior, said being a part of the event was special to her and showed her how colorful San Marcos is.
"I think it’s like seeing people that I know around town and seeing vendors that I've seen before," Hayes said. "Everybody's been really kind and happy. I really love San Marcos because ... it's got a really good community feeling."
Both Inostroza and Hayes said one of their favorite parts of the event was seeing festival attendees dressed in mermaid costumes decked out in glitter, gems and shells.
One of those costumes belonged to Kay Abynante who was celebrating the mermaid festival for her third time dressed as a purple and blue mermaid. Although she's not from San Marcos, she said she loves driving down to catch the celebration every year.
As a lover and collector of all things mermaid, Abynante was excited when she found out about the mermaid festival from Facebook a few years ago and said if she could live in San Marcos, she would. She loved seeing the community come together to celebrate the many things that make San Marcos great.
"It just brings all these people here from all over, it brings the money to the community," Abynante said. "It's just — it's amazing bringing everybody together. It's neat to see all the little girls, you know, their smiles on their faces and it just means a lot to me."
Sharing the same sentiment, Glisson-Munier loved seeing everyone smiling, dancing, meeting each other and enjoying all that the community has to offer.
"It is absolutely the people," Glisson-Munier said. "This is what I always say, that San Marcos is not for any one of us, San Marcos is for all of us, and I truly believe that."
For more information on the Mermaid Society of Texas and the annual celebration, visit its website.