Let's get this straight.

It's almost Fiesta time again here in San Antonio! Put your party pants on, boys and girls, and get ready to have a ball! If you're a San Antonian, you know what I'm talking about. And if you've ever visited San Antonio during Fiesta, I know you have fond memories of a wonderful time.




But there's something that's been bugging me for a while now. Actually for about three years, I think. I think that was about the time that The San Antonio Aids Foundation decided to rewrite a little Fiesta history - a particular little piece of it that's near and dear to my heart.

The WEBB party has grown to be the foundation's largest fundraising event, and it happens every year during the first weekend of Fiesta. SAAF tells us that it all started with a guy they call something like "Mr. X" having a backyard barbecue in 1990. Nope. Didn't happen that way at all. Mr. Beers and I were some of the founding hosts of the WEBB party, and we've tried to reach out to the WEBB/SAAF people so they could have the facts - even all the printed materials that we have from those early days - but I think they like their little story better than ours:

In 1992 Mr. Beers and I were sharing a house with a wonderful guy named Mr. Weiss. We had some great times in that three-bedroom rental in the heart of Monte Vista. That November we decided to have a Chili Cook Off in our backyard with our friends. We invited everyone to come and bring chili. The plan was that we'd all get to eat good and everyone could vote on which chili they thought to be the tastiest. Then we'd have a Chili Queen! Friends who baked were also encouraged to bring a cake, as there would be an old fashioned Cake Walk at this shindig. It was all so much fun. We had such a great time. Mr. Beers still swears that Matt Hales was crowned Chili Queen because he brought two kinds of chili. Paul Bonin-Rodriguez got Honorable Mention for his clever creation, Chili On A String. He really wanted to make Chili On A Stick, but the chili just would not cooperate.



In the midst of all this merrymaking and chili slurping and cake walking, our dear friend Bill Hudson asked if he could have everyone's attention for just a few minutes. He had been thinking about something, and wanted to run it by the assembled group. Bill stood on the steps going up to our back porch and told the crowd that he had recently learned about something going on in Austin called Octopus. Octopus was (still is, as far as I know) a great organization that has a series of events (parties, mostly) throughout the year to raise money for Aids Services of Austin. Bill wanted to know if there were enough people interested in doing something similar in San Antonio. Bill's enthusiasm was contagious, and about fifty of us started talking and planning an event to raise money for SAAF.

It was Bill's idea to call the event The WEBB Party. I'm really not sure how the spelling got messed up, but it did. The idea had come to him from a calendar that he had hanging in his office. For whatever month that was on display, there would be a beautiful graphic and an inspirational quote. The one that really spoke to our friend Bill was an African proverb that said, "When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion." And that was our goal - to take something like the web of our friendship in this wonderful group of men and women, and make a difference.



The first WEBB party was in April 1993. It was held at The Black Swan Inn. And in order to be a host, one had to fulfill several requirements. You had to pay a host fee of $50. You had to provide a list of names and addresses of people that you would invite to the party - and you had to hand address the invitation to them yourself - and include a short personal message on the invitation. And you had to agree to work at the party. Some people took shifts tending bar, others were in charge of parking - all the logistics. We agreed our investment in the success of the event would be more than $50. The event has grown into something quite different these days, but still quite wonderful.



I haven't talked to Bill in years. He moved away from San Antonio some time ago. But I know he would be proud to see how far the WEBB party has come. I really need to track him down and talk about this. But wherever he is, I can almost bet you that every April he thinks about San Antonio, and wishes he were here for the Fiesta festivities.

Comments

  1. Love the blog entry on the WEBB Party. Regarding the spelling, Bill told me once (and I could have gotten this wrong, it's been so long) that he misspelled the name of the party when he typed out the invitation letter. Instead of making changes, we just kept the name.

    I remember being the bad cop of consolidating all the names and addresses then handing them back out that night of the addressing party. We didn't want to send multiple invitations to the same person so I had to "assign" the names. You can imagine how that went over. But we all got through it.

    Eric Beckman told me Bill, now Dr. William Hudson, is doing quite well as the president of a Catholic high school, and yes he would be very proud of what it has become.

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  2. What a great story! Thanks for starting such a fantastic tradition! :)

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  3. I knew that we could count on Mr. Bobo and Mr. Beers to help spread the "real" story of how the WEBB started! Thanks for setting everyone straight! I hope that we can get as many original founders back together soon after this Fiesta passes for an "interview party" with Dr. Amy Stone, who is a professor at Trinity University. She is writing a book on Fiesta, with a major section dedicated to the influence of the gay/lesbian community on Fiesta.

    Thanks again for starting a much needed revolution which will hopefully bring many of us back for a much needed reunion!

    Eric B.

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  4. I love this and this is exactly the information I needed as the current VP of Communications at the San Antonio AIDS Foundation. I have never known the full story of the founding, but I did serve as 'host' at a couple of the 1990s parties - just not the first one. THANK YOU. We are hoping to bring as many of the founding members as possible together for a reunion later this summer and to make the 2018 WEBB party (it will be the 25th anniversary!) a salute to the founding and roots of this marvelous fundraiser. Michael and Wayne, I'll be calling you! Hugs, Ken Slavin

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