By Alissa Reinhard
If you were to meet Janet and Artie Dietel, you’d quickly realize that they definitely qualify as a San Antonio power couple. However, a more appropriate title for them might be San Antonio’s compassionate couple. During this time of year, the couple’s compassion is directed toward the popular Fiesta event, “A Night In Old San Antonio®” (NIOSA®). The Dietels go above and beyond to ensure that NIOSA® is an event to remembered each and every year.
NIOSA is solely sponsored by and benefits the San Antonio Conservation Society (SACS), one of the oldest and most active community preservation groups in the United States. Janet is SACS President—a year-round volunteer position that requires 40-60 hour work weeks. Her experience as a former North East ISD educator and principal of Thousand Oaks Elementary School has served her well in this role! And even though she juggles many responsibilities as SACS President, she also continues to serve as Chairman of NIOSA’s Villa España area, a volunteer position she has held since 1988.
Artie has probably one of the most important jobs at NIOSA (next to the Chairman) – he stages the entire event. During the days leading up to NIOSA, Artie and his three co-chairmen work endless hours and then eighteen hours a day, all four days of NIOSA, to “keep the wheels greased” as NIOSA Stagers. Artie has volunteered at NIOSA for 48 years, earning the Staging chairmanship in 1987 with Gene Willette. Artie also stages NIOSITAs (private, miniature versions of NIOSA) and just about every major NIOSA and San Antonio Conservation Society event.
NIOSA is a four-night festival in the heart of downtown San Antonio that celebrates the city’s diverse cultural legacy for more than 85,000 revelers annually. It’s the top fundraiser for historic preservation in the nation and truly lives up to its motto as a “Celebration for Preservation.” The 69 th preservation of NIOSA will be held April 25-28. “We love our city’s heritage, customs and culture,” said the Dietels. “SACS mission is to preserve San Antonio’s historic fabric and volunteering at NIOSA is a great way to enjoy the party while furthering SACS’ causes.”
All proceeds from NIOSA support SACS’ restoration and preservation of historic properties, parks, waterways, traditions, and the intangible heritage of the multicultural city of San Antonio. “SACS has been the caretaker of our city since 1924,” the Dietels explained. “We work to preserve the beauty and history of our city so the next generation can enjoy the same. Giving back to the community is imperative to us.”
On average, NIOSA partygoers consume over 17,000 pounds of beef; 11,000 pounds of chicken; 5,000 pounds of sausage; 3,000 turkey legs, 25,000 buns, rolls and bolillos; 30,000 tortillas; 2,000 pounds of masa; 6,000 tamales; 15,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables; and 1,000 pounds of guacamole! The sheer volume of food served makes for a daily challenge of ensuring that each booth chairman has everything he or she needs to open that night while continuously tracking the food and drink delivered and served. “No waste means more dollars returned to SACS to further our goals,” explained Janet. “NIOSA attendees would be surprised to learn about the plethora of behind-the scene security strategies taken to insure our guests’ safety,” added Artie. “It is a challenge just to make
sure that the gates are opened on time and we are ready for our guests each day. Additionally, we have to ensure that problems and concerns are addressed quickly.”
NIOSA is a unique event made possible by the sheer will and determination of volunteers like the Dietels and the benefits of NIOSA go far beyond four days of food and fun.