SAN ANTONIO — Spiritlandia, San Antonio's newly rebranded celebration of Dia de los Muertos meant to help bring the city into the national spotlight this time of year, responded to visitor complaints about Thursday night's kickoff event: a river parade that ended up being delayed and with fewer floats than expected.
Many visitors purchased tickets for upwards of $30 at River Walk restaurants and other viewing areas to observe the parade, and ended up disappointed after they say they saw only a few floats that were late getting out of the gate.
Those visitors include Charles Gray, a local resident who spoke to KENS 5.
"It was just a very sad parade and we were hoping for so much more," Gray said. "We were expecting a world-class celebration."
The parade was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Come 8 p.m., audience members grew restless.
"Maybe a half-hour after the parade was set to begin, we would see maybe one float," Gray said. "Maybe 10 minutes later, another float. All in all, we saw maybe three or four floats within an hour."
Another person said even the San Antonio River's ducks "got the biggest applause, because everyone was so frustrated with the delay."
In a statement posted to Facebook, Spiritlandia organizers, which includes the Rey Feo Consejo team, apologized that the river parade was delayed due to rain. The post also mentions the "difficulties of safely filming the nationwide television broadcast in such weather."
The event is still scheduled to stream Nov. 1 on Peacock.
Meanwhile, Spiritlandia founder Chef Johnny Hernandez said the parade was being filmed for a national TV special set to air Nov. 1. He says rain caused the delays.
"When the rain starts, the filming has to stop," he said. "I think it started and stopped raining about five times. You have to cover the cameras, cover the stage, cover the video wall."
Spiritlandia's post also said that while refunds are not being offered for the experience, they are offering free entrance to this weekend's Spiritlandia events. Anyone with a parade ticket last night is asked to email proof of the ticket to email@example.com
See the full apology post below:
Complaints on social media included those from both locals and tourists.
Troup Coronado on Facebook said, "We paid top dollar for dinner seats at Casa Rio - such an epic fail. The ducks got the biggest applause!"
Donna on Facebook came from out of town for the celebration and said it was the "Worst tourist event experience EVER!"
Some tweets claimed there were only four floats which did not appear until more than an hour after expected. Chopper 5 flew over a packed Arneson River Theater a half-hour after the parade was meant to start, and instead found only a trio of lit-up barges snaking their way through the river elsewhere downtown.
Hernandez says all 26 barges were eventually able to float the river, a sight that will be included in the TV streaming special.
"The parade was built to give back to the community," he said. "That's our mission."
Since this Día de los Muertos celebration began in 2019, it's donated $50,000 a year to Rey Feo Consejo, a local nonprofit that funds student scholarships. Hernandez still plans to donate that same amount this year, even though he's expecting to lose a bit of money after Thursday night's mishaps.