The History of River Walk Royalty
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 San Antonio River Walk 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 San Antonio River Walk 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, but it is also a responsibility. One must perfect the royal wave, ride in countless parades, and look great wearing a crown.
2019 Royal Court
After their official royal reign is over, former royals are invited to become lifelong Ambassadors for the San Antonio River Walk 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.
Interested in becoming royalty? Contact Sponsorship Director Loren Reyes at [email protected]
Watch this clip from our 2017 River Walk Royalty Coronation at the Tobin Center: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WD5lyDg0p8
2020 CANDIDATES & 2019 ROYAL COURT
Royal Candidate: Michelle Bononcini
A Native of San Antonio, Michelle has lived and loved the “210” her entire life. Her fondest memories as a child growing up in the Alamo City were riding the bus with her Dad to Commerce Street to dance to Bongo Joe’s oil barrel drums, a downtown staple in the 1980’s. Michelle stayed close to home to attend St. Mary’s University after graduating from Alamo Heights High School. She proudly transformed from a Mule to a Rattler and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Art in Criminal Justice. During her stay at St. Mary’s University, she found a second family with the sisters of Alphi Phi. As an alumna, Michelle continues to be active in the Alpha Phi Alumnae Chapter with fundraiser efforts for the Alpha Phi Foundation and the NICU Baby Safe Room at University Hospital. These efforts contribute to an increased awareness and research efforts for women’s cardiac care.
For her birthday every year, in lou of gifts, she asks her friends and family to bring a donation for a charity that is close to her heart such as San Antonio Pets Alive, The San Antonio Cancer Association, local homeless shelters, and Senior Community Centers. Michelle’s charitable passion is deep rooted from her upbringing serving the lord at St. Anthony de Padua with her ministry group and church friends. Michelle has always had a natural entrepreneur and sales personality. During college, she sold jewelry from the trunk of her car to her sorority sisters for extra cash. So it wasn’t a surprise when she started Fiesta Loca, a social media mini-series that showcases and sells authentic Mexican outfits and accessories with comedic integration and local celebrity appearances.
Her entrepreneurial spirit flows into her daily 9-5 at a local not-for profit organization. Her day consists of helping owners, new and experienced, to develop their business and operate with processes that are founded on good business practices. Just wait! Michelle’s work life doesn’t stop there. Her nights and weekends are committed to the promotions team at the San Antonio Current as she works on events such as Beer Festival and Whisky Business. Her promotional job gives her the opportunity to interact with San Antonio’s socialites while also promoting the finest restaurants, local hot spots, and events in town.
Her vivacious energy and spirit are contagious, sprinkling everyone around her with good vibes and laughter. “Que va ser esta loca?!” meaning “ What will she do next?!” In her spare time, Michelle loves to karaoke (mostly rap and yes , rap)! She loves a good Texas country concert or floating with her friends. Her friends mean everything to her. Her Mother proudly shares, “ We don’t know how she does it. She has thousands of close friends and remains loyal to each one, so I know they will support her in this ride.”
In the little time she has manages to carve out for herself she likes spending it with her family playing bingo or binge-watching Criminal Minds with a bucket of popcorn. Her biggest fan was her grandmother Josefina, who she is named after - Michelle Josephine. Michelle wants to dedicate this journey to her.
With her next venture upon her, she is ecstatic and blessed for the opportunity to help preserve, promote, and protect the heart of the our Alamo City, the San Antonio River Walk! But she can’t do it without your help! She is asking for your open hearts and charitable contributions to her fundraising campaign for 2020 River Walk Royalty.
Follow her journey at:
Victor “Tito” Caballero
A San Antonio native, Tito Caballero is both Host and Creative Director for iHeartRadio here in San Antonio. When reflecting on his fondest family memories, Tito’s childhood visits to our South Texas Treasure, the San Antonio River Walk, are top of mind – especially the thrill of attending the iconic Ford Holiday River Parade. Committed to giving back, he’s dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving the centerpiece of our great city!
Tito is an advocate for those communities he has called home having donated his time and efforts to help Assistance for Vets, Serving Seniors, San Diego’s LGBTQ Center, San Antonio AIDS Foundation, and Children’s Hospital. He’s particularly passionate about helping students, regardless of socioeconomic status, to gain access to opportunities in the arts through the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. He’s also raised funding for other non-profit organizations in the arts community in hopes to further increase awareness and further urban youth initiatives.
In addition to his current on-air responsibilities at 104.5 Latino Hits and American Vida Podcast, Tito has pioneered new technology and content initiatives for both radio and television. As former president of Futuri Media, he’s assisted to the reshape of content and audience engagement models for major media companies around the world. This has led to the increase of Futuri client base to over 1000 radio and television stations and networks in over 18 countries. Tito has also developed radio ad campaigns for Coca-Cola, World Cup in South Africa, and Ford to promote their new redesigned Ford Fiesta, which targeted first-time car buyers in Latin America.
Tito was raised in the south side of San Antonio where he attended Health Careers and Harlandale High Schools. When he’s not working or donating his time to local charitable causes, he can either be found at Medina Lake, playing golf at the historic Brackenridge Golf Course, or ordering tacos at one of his many favorite San Antonio taco shops. During the San Antonio Spurs season, you can find Tito court side or with his father enjoying the game at home. Always positive, encouraging, genuine, and compassionate, Tito works hard to inspire others to be the best version of themselves.
Royal Candidate: David Cruz
Once Upon a Time there lived a Royal Prince by the name of David Cruz….a native of Delightful Del Rio. David was bewildered by the beauty of San Antonio and at the young age of 18 yrs old he made San Antonio his home. He never looked back because it has always felt like home. David Cruz attended Northwest Vista and University of the Incarnate Word.
Since his younger years, David was always surrounded by family in construction, especially his (late) father and Master Plumber, Hector Cruz. David always had Real Estate in the back of his mind and with a little encouragement from his family, David transitioned from a career in government and corporate travel (spanning almost 13 years) into Real Estate. He is now a full-time REALTOR®, Office Manager, and Director of Recruiting for Carter TX Realty. David is very involved in the San Antonio Real Estate Realm. He is a NAHREP (National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals) Director for Events, Vice-President of the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce, in the NAGLREP (National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals) Leadership Committee and a member of SABOR’s YPN Committee.
David’s hobbies include running 5K’s/Marathons, cycling, yoga as well as spending time with his family, friends, and traveling all over the world. If David isn’t with a client and/or traveling, you can find him volunteering his time with various Non-Profit Organizations, which include CASA, SAAF, Wounded Warrior Project SA and SAPD Blue Angels- just to name a few. David is a natural born leader and philanthropist. As stated, he has the royalty and service to others attitude. He was an ambassador and held various title as a young child and teenager. During the holidays David also adopts families in need for Christmas and provides gifts to those less fortunate.
One of David’s lifetime motto's has been to reinvent himself from time to time without losing foundation. This leads him to share that he can remember his father’s words, “Take care of your character because it is what people will remember you by and your reputation is what people think of you.” He believes this to be a true analogy of what his father represented. David is a fine example of an advocate for his community. When asked what advocacy means to him, David replied, ‘having a strong and passionate voice.’ David loves San Antonio, and no matter where he travels to, when he’s asked where he’s from, he proudly mentions San Antonio, and most people know of the River Walk, then the Alamo.
David is VERY excited and honored to be a candidate for the 2020 River Walk Royalty. The River Walk is a place where the flavors of the city (whether you like Mexican food, Italian, barbecue, or dessert) come together to create great memories. That’s why we welcome 37 million visitors each year. The history of San Antonio can be seen and felt while floating down the river, as well as the Christmas lights during the holidays adds that extra special touch. David promises to keep talking about San Antonio, and helping preserve and promote the River Walk no matter where he is. David is also known for his unique and out of the box thinking for marketing. A vote for David is a vote for continued advocacy and promotion of the South Texas Treasure the River Walk.
Follow the legacy follow David Cruz for River Walk Royalty. #D4K
Follow David and his Journey on Social Media:
Photo Credit: JF Photography©
Royal Candidate: Desiree Lancharic
Desiree Lancharic is a San Antonio native. After 12 years of friendship and 5 years of dating, she tied the knot with her husband, Aaron in 2016. They have a beautiful (and sassy!) 5-year-old daughter named Teagan.
Currently, she is the Sales Manager for Go Rio San Antonio Cruises and is active in both the Hospitality and Tourism industries. She is a Certified Tourism Ambassador and is a member of several associations, alliances, and committees across several sectors in the downtown community. She was nominated for Service Manager of the Year for her role at Go Rio Cruises. This year, Desiree has taken on the coordination and development of more community outreach programs, which has been a fulfilling experience for her. She has a deep love for Fiesta and medal collecting and has started her own family Fiesta traditions as she “Parties with a Purpose” for the 10 best days in April (which also happens to be her birthday month)!
The River Walk is Desiree’s second home, and she believes it is important to promote, preserve, and protect it.
Follow Desiree's Campaign on Facebook--https://www.facebook.com/DesireeRoyalty/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Royal Candidate: Jessica Strom
Jessica Lynn Strom is a local lifestyle blogger at JessicaLynnStrom.com and also is Programs Manager at the Epilepsy Foundation Central & South Texas. Jessica has called the Greater San Antonio Area home for nearly a decade, and since moving to South Texas, the River Walk has carved out a special place in her heart.
Philanthropy and community giving have always been at the core of everything in Jessica’s life, from her self-titled blog which focuses on philanthropy, food, fun, and fashion, to her job at the Epilepsy Foundation Central & South Texas. Jessica is proud to serve the San Antonio community every day.
Jessica knows the impact of community service and giving and sees it in action every day at her job and through her blog interaction when she posts about a community giving event. “People in San Antonio really care deeply about one another, and strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet. It's something so deeply ingrained in our culture here and is such a beautiful thing to see in action.”
Though she serves the local area daily, Jessica also spends a great deal of her time outside work at local area nonprofits. She serves on the Board of Directors of the San Antonio College Alumni Association, is a member of the Junior League of San Antonio, and is involved with a myriad of other nonprofit campaigns benefiting animal and wildlife rescue groups, historic preservation, the LGBTQ community, mental health organizations, and women’s shelters. She truly enjoys making a measurable difference in the San Antonio and surrounding communities. Jessica also enjoys hikes in the Hill Country, wine tasting, playing with her dogs, and has also started learning American Sign Language.
Jessica is so humbled and excited to be part of the San Antonio River Walk Royal Court to give back to a city she loves so dearly by working with the San Antonio River Walk Association which serves to promote, protect and preserve one of the beautiful jewels of our city. She hopes that participating in the River Walk Royalty program will help bring much needed attention and funding to sustain the beautiful River Walk and keep its historical legacy alive for generations to come.
Royal Candidate: Ray Salazar
Raymond Salazar was born and raised in Southside of San Antonio TX and was brought up in a strong Hispanic household and has embraced the Hispanic culture as his parents owned and operated a Mexican restaurant in the Southside of San Antonio, off Hutchins and Zarzamora, throughout his early childhood years. Throughout middle and high school years, Ray always felt the need to be involved within the community by playing sports, volunteering with school functions, and by participating in the Cultural Arts Parades yearly. Until this day, Ray still volunteers his time to the Cultural Arts Parade due to the fact that now all his nieces and nephews attend schools within the Harlandale District. After graduating from McCollum High School in 2002, his dreams were focused on obtaining a business degree while attending local community college at Palo Alto College, but suddenly Ray became sick and found out that he had gastric cancer. "I didn’t know what to think or how to feel but I did know I had a purpose in life and that’s when I realized I needed to do more for my community since I was limited to working due to my personal health issues."
Ray became involved yearly with the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner as well as The Wreaths Across America. He also started a Fiesta Medal Page called the "Fiesta Medal Freaks" on Social Media which has reached over 1800 followers within a year's time. Fiesta Medal Freaks gave Ray the opportunity to meet many dedicated Fiesta go-getters, who not only celebrate in April but keep the Fiesta spirit alive throughout the year as it becomes part of our everyday culture living in Good Ole San Antonio! And unlike any other ﬁesta group, Fiesta Medal Freaks offers free advertisement to any local businesses, from your next door neighborhood mom and pop shop to any upcoming community events that can bring the city together free of cost.
On April 4th, 2018 Ray hosted his ﬁrst Fiesta Medal event at the Courtyard Marriott by SeaWorld where he organized a Mariachi band, 35+ Fiesta Medal Vendors and the appearance of "Piñatas in the Barrio Royalty." Over 350+ people attended which led to the social media page, "The Great 2019 FiestaMedal Scavenger Hunt!" This group is open to the Public and encourages anyone and everyone of all ages to have fun, go back to our childhood spirits, and participate in this fun-ﬁlled Fiesta Medal Scavenger Hunt throughout San Antonio. "Believe me, it’s been a successful accomplishment to see all ages of our community coming together daily, participating and taking time out of their busy lives to take the opportunity in hiding a ﬁesta medal and posting clues throughout the day while others are immediately posting follow-up pictures of their new Fiesta medal ﬁnds.
By running the Fiesta Medal Freaks page, Ray has expanded his volunteer work by hosting a Candy Drive in October for children living at Haven for Hope. He collected and donated over 250 trick-or-treat bags. In December, Ray hosted his 1st toy drive allowing him to collect and donate over 500 toys to children living at St. PJ's Children's Shelter. All these donations came from the community, and Ray hopes he can continue and expand this tradition yearly. "Not only is my focus on the children of the community, but for the adults as well!"
"Not only is this page bringing our community together, but it’s also a reminder to us that we’re never too old or too young to not have fun and enjoy the simple things in life that bring someone a smile at no cost, just by giving up some of your daily time" -Ray.
Ray is excited for the opportunity to become the 2020 River Walk King, but regardless of the outcome, he pledges to do what he can to make people smile and enjoy life to the fullest!
"Thank you, Viva Fiesta!"- Raymond Salazar
Fiesta Medal Freaks
Photo Credit: Galindo and Son Photography
Follow my campaign:https://www.facebook.com/Ray4RWRoyalty2020/
Royal Candidate: Maria Escamilla
After serving active duty in the U.S. Navy for ten years, Tori made the decision to go reserves and make her way back to her hometown of San Antonio to be back with her family. Her upbringing and love for Tejano culture landed her a job as an on-air personality on the new KLMO 98.9 FM Tejano radio station. As well as inspired her to start a podcast with two other women to speak on their life experiences, called Tejana Talk.
Being away from San Antonio for so many years made her appreciate the city that raised her. In 2016, she received a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for volunteering over 500 hours and is using that experience serving San Antonio as a new member in the Junior League of San Antonio. Tori is currently attending The University of Texas El Paso studying in Multidisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Chicano Studies.
“I have always bragged on San Antonio and how it has made me the person I am, a strong Tejana with pride both in my Mexican and American heritage”. Tori plans to spread the history, traditions, and culture of San Antonio and the River Walk during her campaign.
Listen to KLMO 98.9FM in San Antonio
Follow my journey on IG @the_cultured_tejana
Royal Candidate: THIS COULD BE YOU!
Email [email protected] if you are interested in becoming a royal!
2019 King John Nunez
As a local native of San Antonio, Texas born and raised, John has grown up visiting the River Walk and embracing it as the “Heart of our Great City."
In 1999, he received an Educational Development Certificate from Palo Alto Community College. Shortly after in 2000, John received his Cosmetology Operator License and then proceeded on to obtain his Master's in Education License in 2002 from Southwest School of Business in San Antonio. John is the owner of HAIR-BY-JOHN and co-owner of The Beauty “O” Academy. "I am drawn to instructional teaching as a way to express my creativity, while at the same time it gives me the opportunity to interact with individuals."
As a community organizer and activist, John says, "it has been amazing hard work to defend our community and move it forward with great commitment." In 2016 he was named a very memorable figure in the Pride community and was chosen as the 2016 Gay Pride Parade “Spirit Marshal". John volunteers at Haven for Hope to help those in need and began a “Pride Spirit” blanket drive in which he collects washable blankets and donates them to the homeless during the cold winter season. In 2017, he began the “Pride Spirit” Haircuts for up to 3-4 hours for those less fortunate trying to get back into the workforce in hopes of a new beginning. John takes pride in these events because giving back to his community with nothing but the simple things in life and expecting nothing in return but a smile will forever brighten someone else’s day.
In this journey, John promises that PEACE, LOVE, and PRIDE are some of the things he will represent, and he promises to do his best as King by helping preserve and promote the River Walk and the Robert Hugman architectural scholarship at UTSA.
PEACE is our ultimate goal
LOVE conquers all
PRIDE in our community strengthens unity.
2019 Queen Tori Johnson
Tori Johnson is a local fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogger at ThesTORIbook.com and owner of sTORIbook Public Relations. Born in San Antonio, she is a Texas girl through-and-through. She seamlessly intersects her style with her love of San Antonio, family and motherhood.
Tori has long carried a heart for living a life of service, giving and gratitude. She is excited to have the opportunity to be Queen of the San Antonio River Walk Association which serves to Promote, Protect and Preserve the Crown Jewel of our city.
In 2016, the importance of giving back was personally amplified for Tori when she suffered a stroke and subsequently underwent an implant to place a closure device over a hole in her heart (adding to a chest already full of pacemaker wires). Since that day two years ago, she has made it a daily goal to give back to others (especially those in the city she calls home). Tori has served on the board of Fashion Group International San Antonio, local school PTA boards, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society campaigns, as well as a variety of other campaigns benefiting Texas children and women’s shelters and animal rescue groups.
She has been awarded San Antonio Fashion Blogger of the Year in 2015 and 2016 and has also received recognition from the San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio Current, San Antonio Magazine and currently serves as Fashion Editor for Texas’ premier luxury magazine, The Society Diaries Magazine.
Tori is a proud Fightin’ Texas Aggie, is married to her college sweetheart, Russell Johnson, and is a mom to two beautiful little boys.
Photo Credit: T Walker Photography
2019 Prince Uriel Diaz
Uriel Diaz is a true San Antonian born and raised in this city. He is a co-owner of the most colorful Antique shop in all of San Antonio, Karolinas Antiques. He, alongside his mother, stepfather, brothers, and sister have put all of their love and effort into making a name for their store in our great city. Uriel also has a passion for all things Fiesta and Selena. You may have seen him all over social media wearing his Bidi Bidi Bom Bom-inspired Fiesta hat, complete with a giant cut out of his idol, Selena right on top. He is also well-known in the Fiesta medal community for wearing those long sashes filled front and back with medals. Fiesta food is what makes him happiest, specifically chicken-on-a-stick. Fiesta holds a special place in his heart since he and his fiance of five years had their first date at the Flambeau parade.
Uriel is an active member of San Antonioʼs LGBT community. He works hard to make his shop, Karolinas Antiques a safe space for everyone to be welcomed. Karolinas throws all kinds of events from Fiesta medal events to art shows and even Drag shows. Uriel supports San Antonioʼs diverse people and community wholeheartedly. "I am truly honored and humbled to be able to give back to the city I love so much by working with the San Antonio River Walk Association."
Follow @como.la.fiesta on IG
2019 Princess Mary Gonzales
Growing up in a San Antonio based military family, Mary Gonzales is a true San Antonian! She is career and education driven. She graduated in the top ten percent of her class at Judson High School, received her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and holds a Master’s Degree in Communication Arts from the University of the Incarnate Word. Who knows, a Doctoral Degree may be in her near future!
Mary has several years of experience in the field of event logistics and management. Her journey began as an Assistant Director of Development at a successful financial firm, a Marketing Director at an international law firm, then she became a Special Events Coordinator for The Wedding Guide & Bridal Extravaganza and Events Manager for the San Antonio Current. She currently resides as a Sales Representative and Consultant for the largest wine and spirits distributor in the country, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.
Her path has led her to fulfilling volunteer opportunities such as Habitat for Humanity, Meals On Wheels, International Society for Special Events, and Child Advocates of San Antonio (CASA). She serves as an active member of the University of the Incarnate Word Alumni Board. The opportunity as Princess helps her give back to her hometown through a new partnership with the San Antonio River Walk Association who serves to Promote, Protect and Preserve the Crown Jewel of our city, will be a journey to remember.
In her spare time, Mary likes to practice boxing, self-defense, and fun runs. She is currently training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon!
Follow Mary’s journey at
2019 Duchess April Gomez
April Gomez, a San Antonio native is a mother to three beautiful girls, and she's been married to her high school sweetheart for eight years. For over 15 years she worked in the corporate world with the hopes of someday “breaking out of the cubicle life.” That opportunity came. With her entrepreneurial spirit, she has established Viva! SA, a Marketing & Events Management business.
While the business was under development, April hosted a free weekly networking event open to all business owners and creatives with the passion and drive to expand their business. Through collaboration with industry professionals who service business owners with digital marketing and event management services, Viva! SA has successfully evolved over the past year and a half. Her job as a mother is her priority, and she will often engage her daughters in her business, specifically the social media aspects. Through social media, April is hoping to teach her girls that it’s not all about posting beautiful pictures or selfies but using them to tell a story and evoke emotion through a camera lens. Her main passion lies here and drives her in developing a lasting legacy for her family, just as her Dad (Chuck Gonzales), owner of Solar Electric Texas has done for her.
April’s first and current client is Dominic Mendiola of Dom’s Chop Salsa. Dom had the honor of contending for King of the River Walk in 2017-18. In his Royalty campaign, he appointed Viva! SA to coordinate events, which led his becoming Prince of the River Walk. April is extremely proud of being a part of the efforts to maintain and highlight our city’s gem and promoting the number one tourist attraction in Texas.
“I am embracing this opportunity as Duchess as a proud representative and as a reflection of our ever-evolving city. With a family that truly appreciates upholding traditions, I am grateful to instill those values in Viva! SA and continuing the advocacy of upholding the overall mission to Promote, Protect and Preserve the San Antonio River Walk.”
Follow her Campaign Journey at https://www.facebook.com/VivaLaRoyalty/ | IG @evolving_creative
Photo Credit: Robert Trebor Photography
2019 Countess Amanda Haro
Amanda Haro has lived in San Antonio, TX since 2006 and graduated from UTSA with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Marketing. She is a wife and a mother of a darling three-year-old daughter. Amanda owns Flor Boutique, an online women’s clothing shop that operates in San Antonio. One of her favorite aspects of her business is meeting new faces at pop-up events in downtown San Antonio. Getting to know her customers and the local San Antonio business community has made the journey so rewarding and motivating. Throughout her years of living in this beautiful city, Amanda has grown a huge appreciation for its vibrant culture and positive energy. Her favorite time of year in San Antonio is Fiesta! It is so uplifting to see the San Antonio community so alive and colorful during that time.
Amanda is honored to have the opportunity to be Countess of the San Antonio River Walk Association and to give back to such an amazing city and organization!