Texas Independence Day celebration turns to porta potties

SAN BENITO — Fingers are being pointed.

And some are going further by raising a stink about the lack of sewer services at the annual Texas Independence Day celebration at the San Benito Fairgrounds.

Late last week, the Texas Heritage and Independence Celebration Association held its annual re-enactments at the fairgrounds.

It didn’t quite go as the organizers had hoped.

They had to order portable toilets for the event months after AEP cut utility lines there as it builds its nearby service center.

But the porta potties arrived late Friday, when more than 700 students arrived to view the re-enactments of battles leading to Texas’ independence in 1836.

Then on Saturday, an estimated crowd of more than 3,500 descended on the fairgrounds for the event that draws re-enactors from across parts of Texas.

Despite AEP’s construction, Mike Frazier, a re-enactor who is running for the city commission’s Place 4 seat in the May 5 election, said the city should have provided sewer services for what he called its biggest tourist draw “by far.”

“I think it goes back to the city. I’m blaming the city, the commission and the city manager for not having proper facilities,” Frazier said. “If you know all these people are coming to your city and you have porta potties, that’s an embarrassment to the city. This is just another black eye for the city. We’ve got thousands of people. What are they going to think?”

However, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa blamed the Texas Heritage Independence Celebration Association.

“That’s just poor planning,” De La Rosa said. “It’s not a city event. It’s a private event the city sponsors. They are guests of the city.”

For months, the Texas Heritage and Independence Celebration Association was aware AEP cut utility lines at the fairgrounds, city spokeswoman Martha McClain stated.

“The city alerted the Texas Heritage Independence Celebration Association several months prior to the event that water service would not be available on the fairgrounds due to construction underway near the grounds,” McClain stated. “(The association) agreed to this and they informed the city that they would provide portable restroom facilities for all guests onsite during the event.”

On Friday and Saturday, visitors and students had to turn to portable toilets at the event.

One problem

At about 10:30 a.m. Friday, 20 porta potties arrived about 90 minutes after more than 700 San Benito school district students exited their buses to view re-enactments of the famed battles.

Victor Rosas, the event’s president, said he ordered the portable toilets for the event.

“We expected porta potties to be there but they didn’t get there on time,” Rosas said.

Frazier said a school official described the lack of toilets as a health hazard.

“It is an embarrassment,” City Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the city delivered water to the event.

Meanwhile, De La Rosa said low-pressure lines made water available there.

“We should have made sure all facilities were out there as far as porta potties and water,” Rodriguez said. “We should have been better prepared. We’re talking about school children. I apologize to the school district for that.”