“I’ve been offered Barbecue to bring it to peoples’ houses,” jokes Centro San Antonio Ambassador Jeff Cartmill, as he operates the All-Terrain Litter Vacuum (ATLV). It’s probably the most intriguing tool employed by the Centro Ambassador team. That’s why it appears as the focal point of the Official 2019 Centro San Antonio Fiesta Medal.
Jeff remembers times that people would stop and stare, or debate amongst each other about the function of the vehicle. “I’ve even had people take pictures of me,” he adds. As it turns out, this tool is essential to Centro’s work, especially during Fiesta San Antonio. The vehicle picks up large amounts of debris, everything from dirt to two-liter bottles. The vehicle is equipped with two 50-Gallon bags, ready to tackle the curb lines within the .8 square miles of the downtown Public Improvement District (PID).
Ambassador Jeff Cartmill cleans with the All-Terrain Litter Vacuum (ATLV) on Travis Street in Downtown San Antonio. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
For safety reasons, Ambassadors cannot step into the street to pick up litter. Jeff explains that the ATLV allows for the cleaning of the curb line and street. This frees up the rest of the maintenance Ambassador team to take care of the sidewalks. Jeff feels a deep sense of solidarity with his fellow Maintenance Ambassadors. He and five of his “brothers” all live together on the Southside just three miles from the Centro Operations Center. “We’re together all day and it’s a cool thing,” he explains. “We go out to eat together, we hang out together, and we work together.”
Though the ATLV is the star of this year’s Fiesta Medal, it’s just one part of the Ambassadors’ Fiesta and year round operations. Mike Pacheco, General Manager of the Centro Ambassador team, explains that the women and men in yellow shirts are out in force every day during Fiesta. Over the ten days of celebration, Centro Ambassadors assist over 34,000 visitors and locals as well as collect over 7,000 bags of trash.
The 2019 Centro San Antonio All-Terrain Litter Vacuum (ATLV) Fiesta Medal. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Mike’s favorite event to work is The Texas Cavalier’s River Parade. He has personally led this effort for ten years. “I won’t let it go, he laughs. “I love directing it. I love mapping it out.” He and 17 other Ambassadors arrive at 3am the day after the parade to clean the route. Mike’s most proud of the stark contrast between the before and after pictures of the cleanup. He commends his team for returning the San Antonio River Walk to its pristine state after a night of massive jubilation.
Centro also partners with VIA Metropolitan Transit during Fiesta to coordinate information services for people arriving downtown from park and ride locations throughout the city. Residents utilize VIA’s Park and Ride service and arrive downtown near the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Ambassadors are positioned nearby ready to answer any questions and give directions.
Ambassador Bob Mead helps downtown visitors with directions. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
During the climax of Fiesta, with the Battle of Flowers Parade and Fiesta Flambeau both moving through downtown, you will again find the women and men of the Centro Ambassador team. They power wash the sections of the parade route within the PID both before and after the event. In addition, the team starts out early each day after the parades to return our beautiful downtown to pristine condition.
So the next time you run into an Ambassador during Fiesta (or anytime for that matter) make sure to say “Hi”. If you want to take a picture with the women and men in yellow (like Jeff on his ATLV), just ask if they’re cool with it and make sure to tag @centrosanatonio so we can share!