Once upon a time, the “Crown Jewel” of San Antonio, known as the River Walk, had its’ magical water drained every year for a week. The citizens and visitors became sad that their beautiful river contained only mud. To bring joy to the good people, the citizens appointed a Mud King and Queen every year for the week of mud. The king and queen, in turn, raised money which was used to provide mirth and merriment along the River Walk once it was refilled. All rejoiced! Through the years the river was drained less often and the tradition of Mud King and Queen ended. In the year 2010, the tradition was happily replaced with a court of River Walk Royalty who still rule today, bringing joy to all.
Since 1987 River Walk Royalty began serving for a full calendar year. Throughout their reign they serve as ambassadors for the Paseo del Rio Association sharing in the mission to promote, protect, and preserve the San Antonio River Walk. Each year four King and four Queen Candidates work to raise money for the many free River Walk events organized annually by the Paseo del Rio Association. Nominees are announced in September and are given seven months to fundraise for their “position” on the royal court. Titles are awarded in the order of who raises the most money. King and Queen, Prince and Princess, Duke and Duchess, Count and Countess. A Royal Coronation ceremony occurs in April.
Royalty are responsible for making appearances at not only River Walk events but various other occasions throughout the city. Royalty campaigns are one of the largest fundraising activities for the association. Not only is being a River Walk royal a great honor, it is a responsibility. One must perfect the royal wave, ride in countless parades, and look great wearing a crown.
After their official royal reign is over, former royals are invited to become lifelong Ambassadors for the Paseo del Rio Association. Their mission is to enhance the River Walk royalty program by participating in events, act as mentors for new royalty and continuing to promote the San Antonio River Walk. This group of Royal alumni also volunteer at various River Walk Events and holds their own fundraising campaigns to purchase the royal regalia for incoming royalty.
2017 Royalty Candidates
Michael Garofalo anchors the morning news for News4 San Antonio. The award winning journalist has reported live from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino Italy, anchored from Super Bowl 44 in Miami and covered the Monica Lewinsky scandal during the Clinton Presidency. Since he first came to San Antonio the Riverwalk has been a special place for him. Here is what he wants to share….
New York City’s gem is Central Park, San Diego’s is the Gaslamp Quarter and San Antonio’s is, without question, the Riverwalk. It really is a city within a city, and in some ways a world of its own; full of restaurants and hotels along with beautiful scenery, both man-made and God-made.
I will never forget when I first came to interview for my morning anchor job with News 4 SA (WOAI-TV) during the first week in January four and a half years ago. I liked the station and I liked the people, but the Riverwalk just blew me away. In fact, I delayed my departing flight back to Miami so I could spend more time on the Riverwalk, walking, jogging and just soaking the early morning peacefulness of it all.
Without question, the Riverwalk sealed the deal for me, and a few days later I accepted the job. Once I moved here I made it a point to drive down to the Riverwalk early on weekend mornings and go for a jog with my lab Kaia.
One of my first interviews in town was with then Mayor Julian Castro. But this wasn’t any interview. I asked him to do it while we jogged along the banks of the San Antonio River, and that’s exactly what we did. I had my camera man set up on a barge and follow us while we huffed and puffed, and I asked questions of the now HUD Secretary.
With my immediate bond to San Antonio’s crown jewel I thought it only appropriate to accept the nomination to run for King of the Riverwalk. I can see nothing more beneficial to the Alamo City then preserving and promoting the heart and soul of San Antonio.
Rueben Valdez is the Catering Sales Manager at The Westin Riverwalk San Antonio. During his 26 years of life, Rueben has worn a variety of hats, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Growing up on the Southside of San Antonio, Rueben graduated from McCollum High School after which, he majored in Public Relations at The University of Texas at Austin. Since walking the stage, Rueben has been sure to make his mark throughout many different industries. With the title “Wedding Specialist” at the Westin Riverwalk, it is safe to state that Rueben does not settle for anything less than great! Rueben Valdez is an advocate for the Southside of San Antonio and is dedicated to ensuring his generation continues to participate in conversations being held throughout our city.
It is important to Rueben that his culture continues to grow and instill in our community and has even partnered with well-known Tejano band as a way to tribute our culture while working to keep it alive. Growing up, and even today, Rueben was adamant that he would be “famous” one day. To Rueben, being famous isn’t being the next big popstar; he insists he will become the voice for people of all ages just like him. The voice of the child dreaming to be a lawyer. The voice of the parent working for their family’s future. The voice of the person afraid to speak up.
Rueben will be his “own famous” and he dreams of the day he will inspire young men and women to follow their dreams and NEVER GIVE UP. The platform Paseo Del Rio has offered Rueben is only the beginning but is a VERY important step along the road to his ultimate goal. To some, being crowned as a King only happens in fairytales and/or dreams; however, Rueben is determined to prove ANY dream can become a reality!
“I am running for Riverwalk King because I am proud. I am proud to have been nominated. I am proud to represent my culture. I am proud of my accomplishments. But most importantly, I am proud to be from San Antonio, Texas.” – Rueben Valdez
He’s been called “Everyone’s Best Friend” and this year he was voted San Antonio’s Best Local Celebrity! Spurs Jesus has been a Spurs Super Fan and a San Antonio staple for quite some time now. It all began 6 years ago back on November 11, 2010 when he was presented with an opportunity to sit court side at a Spurs home game. Being a die-hard Spurs fan for as long as memory allows, he had dreamt up the idea of one day dressing as Jesus at a game and holding a sign that read "Jesus loves the Spurs". Over the years, his popularity has grown to staggering numbers with over 37,000 followers on social media spanning the globe in over 60 countries. With this opportunity, he’s been blessed to host many charitable events, fan gatherings, Spurs game watching parties, celebrity judging for many fundraising events, host and run in charity runs (including the Rock & Roll Marathon, Komen Race for the Cure, etc.), pet adoptions, children's art programs, Wounded Warrior programs and so on. If you haven’t had a chance to attend one of his rooftop parties at the historical St. Anthony Hotel, you’re missing out! Giving back to the community he loves and calls home has always been a top priority with Spurs Jesus. Donning all five championship rings, championship hat, a red sash, sandals and a white shroud with a Spurs logo nestled up next to a row of Larry O'Brien trophies, Spurs Jesus has become a staple at the AT&T Center and around the San Antonio community. He also has a deep love and passion for our San Antonio River Walk where he's spent the last ten years living and running his own fitness business Rio Fit. Spurs Jesus can be found almost daily in fitness gear working out along the river with locals, or running with his dog Diego, a big friendly Chocolate Lab. He says his mission is to spread Spurs love around the world cheering our team on to the next championship while doing everything in his power to give back and make a positive difference in our community. Follow his journey to become King of the River Walk on his social media pages @spursjesus
Ryan Wood is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Dick’s Last Resort San Antonio. Ryan has been with Dick’s for 9 years starting as one of the irreverent wait staff. He is now responsible for business development, group sales, marketing, and store level advertising. Ryan’s parents were stationed at Randolph AFB and decided that they would never leave, retiring in San Antonio on the NE side. Ryan and his wife have made San Antonio their home as well and are very involved with the downtown community and its organizations. Dick’s has been a friend of the Paseo del Rio for many years and is more involved than ever with Ryan’s leadership. Dick’s sponsors several events throughout the year and Ryan gets his team involved wherever he can. As a new member of the Paseo’s Board of Director’s he continues to support the Paseo in even more ways including chairing the Strategic Planning Committee and participating on the Marketing Committee. Ryan wants to be King of the Riverwalk because, “Everyone wants to be King at least once! There aren’t many opportunities like this for an individual to help their community on this scale, and I’m sure that between us we can help quite a bit.”
McKenzie Cook works for the City of San Antonio. She assist with programming and events in Travis Park. McKenzie is running for River Walk Royalty for a couple of different reasons.
She was born and raised here in San Antonio, and take so much pride in being from here. McKenzie did leave Texas to get her degree in hospitality management at the University of Mississippi, where she met people from all over the country. Anytime she mentioned being from San Antonio people always asked about the River Walk. "It would be an honor to prove to them, my love for the river walk by being named queen", says Cook.
McKenzie is also running because Paseo del Rio means a lot to her. She has interned with them for about 5 months and she says "words cannot describe the amount of experience and knowledge I gained. I have seen first-hand how are they all work to preserve, protect, and promote the River Walk and am now ready to give back by participating in this fundraiser".
Nicole Galindo is a San Antonio native, born and raised on the Southeast side of town. She attended Incarnate Word High School, where she was greatly involved in the Peer Ministry program her junior and senior years. She was also very actively involved with the Youth Group program at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Folklorico program at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Upon high school graduation, Nicole continued her educational journey at Loyola University New Orleans, where she completed her B.A. in Mass Communication – Public Relations & Marketing and is the first person of her immediate family to obtain a college degree. During her college career, Nicole was an active member of Alpha Kappa Psi, the oldest and largest professional business fraternity to date. Nicole is currently the Marketing Coordinator at Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk where she is able to implement her passion for communications, marketing, and guest and community relations. She was recently honored with the Leadership Award for embodying the Hyatt Core Values of caring, serving, learning, adapting and achieving. Nicole volunteers once a month with the San Antonio Food Bank Mobile Pantry. She also volunteers quarterly with Haven for Hope, serves at the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner at the Henry B. Gonzales Center every year and leads the Hyatt Regency San Antonio team every year for the Basura Bash Annual San Antonio Waterways Clean Up. She also works annually with the Hyatt Regency Team for the Fiesta Verde Battle of Flowers Parade Recycling event. The Hyatt Thrive team is built on the understanding that our actions as San Antonio residents can create long-term value for the people and communities where we work, while also helping to protect the planet for future generations. As an active member of this team, she is blessed with the opportunity to positively impact our San Antonio community that has contributed so much to her success. She is also a devoted Spurs and Missions fan, and will be getting married on October of 2017.
Nicole Galindo is running for Queen of the River Walk because she is passionate about inspiring our youth to TAKE-CARE-GIVE. Take education seriously. Care for our community and each other. Give back whenever we can. She is thankful for the opportunity to promote, preserve, protect and be of humble service to our cherished city gem, the San Antonio River Walk, throughout the Queen of the Riverwalk campaign. Nicole will be counting on the tremendous love and support from family, friends and fellow San Antonians’ that made our city be named the 2016 Second Best Travel Destination in the world!
Claudia Garofalo is Co-Host of TV Lifestyle Show San Antonio Living, as well as the Traffic Anchor on News 4 and Fox 29.
She is a professional singer, and radio and television personality. With a passion for music and the entertainment industry, Claudia tapped into radio and television at the young age of 18. She served as a radio and television personality with Univision Broadcasting Group. She was best known for gracing the airwaves on The Beat 98.5 and KXTN 107.5
Claudia has been part of two national reality television show 'Nuevas Voces de America', based in Miami, FL., in 2005, and American Idol, Season 7.
An active performer, Claudia is a registered songwriter and has released two professional albums under the Universal Mexico music label and MP of Miami, Florida. She has also performed several National Anthems for the San Antonio Spurs, and Big League Weekend.
Claudia's biggest joys in life are her two daughters and husband, News 4 San Antonio's Michael Garofalo.
Claudia considers the Riverwalk to be a big part of her life. Her fondest memory is being a little girl and riding on the river barges with her grandmother. She had never seen such a beautiful place. It symbolizes happiness, unity, and the amazing energy San Antonio is all about.
Luckily, Claudia finds herself a lot on the Riverwalk, whether it is through work or for fun. She considers the Riverwalk to be one of the most magical places ever, especially during Christmas, when it lights up and spreads so much joy to all.
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