April/May 2012 - Issue VI

Fiesta: Come Celebrate Like Familia
Author: Sara De La Haya

San Antonio is about to get rowdy as we draw closer to April 21st. Fiesta is a long standing tradition, that San Antonio takes seriously. There is carne around this fanfare and flamboyance. We do it with pride.

A long time ago, in a city far, far away a tradition of Royal Fiesta pageantry, parades and parties was born from honoring the fallen in the battle of the Alamo and San Jacinto. The citizens of San Antonio got together to commemorate the ones they knew and the events that shaped the city’s future with the Battle of Flowers parade. The parade is named so, because participants pelted blossoms at each other from their rifles through the parade. Colorful petals of flowers showered the streets in 1891. Children dressed like flowers and rode on horse driven carriages, white with paper mache flowers spinning on the large wheels rolling through downtown San Antonio. When the city’s population was only 38,000, the Battle of Flowers was the talk of the town. In the following years to come other events began to be held before or on April 21st to the point today where San Antonio basically shuts down to party. It is a pachanga of epic proportions.

The city banks for its non-profit organizations that sponsor the official Fiesta events. The festival has an economic impact of nearly $284 million on the city of San Antonio. The 100 or so charities that sponsor Fiesta make up about 7,500 volunteers that generate events that profit approximately $600,000 The Fiesta San Antonio Commission Inc. plans and coordinates Fiesta as a nonprofit self supporting organization run by volunteers. It has always been that way since The Battle of Flowers parade is now the second largest parade in the nation only after The Tournament of Roses Parade.

Fiesta royalty is elected by different nonprofit organizations to host events and visit charities during Fiesta’s ten day affair to raise scholarship money and to support the nonprofit organizations of the city. Since the 1930’s pageants became a ritual during Fiesta to select Miss Fiesta, Miss San Antonio of Texas, and Miss Teen Fiesta. The Hispanic nonprofit organization, LULAC selects El Rey Feo (The Ugly King) who is more like the people’s king. El Rey Feo originates from a medieval tradition where the citizens would select a working class guy to be King for the day. Soon, the El Rey Feo had a Queen, La Reina de la Feria de las Flores, who is the hostess of many of the balls and events that raise scholarship money for LULAC. The Charro Queen is selected to represent the San Antonio Charro Association in practice since 1947. The Queen of Soul is present to represent the African American heritage in San Antonio.

For all this royalty, there must be more than one parade! At night, the downtown city street of Broadway vibrantly transforms into a glittering arrangement of color as the floats putter by with neon decorations and bands adorned in glow sticks and lights. The spectacle attracts a huge crowd of families that prefer the cool of the night to be mesmerized by the Flambeau Parade. All the pageant winners come in beautiful gowns with yards of lustrous fabric that extend to the length of the float. They smile and wave beneath their rhinestone crowns, lifting the hem of their gown to show off their cowboy boots or decorated slippers. "Show us your shoes!" The crowd yells, from the bleachers as they pelt confetti at the float and cascarones fly by exploding with bits of color that completely cover the street at the Flambeau parade.

Among the official parades and events there is the daytime River Parade where the San Antonio Spurs make an appearance and toss beads to the kids from the river boats. The Oyster Bake, sponsored by St. Mary’s University kicks off Fiesta every year on Friday and revs the city into full gear with bands and booths of fried and baked oysters a plenty. Night in Old San Antonio joined Fiesta’s official events in 1948 and has remained the center of the Fiesta as it runs all week long in heart of downtown at La Villita. This square of restaurants and art studios becomes jammed pack with entertainment and vendors.

Not far from the lights and crowds, lay the bones and skulls of the defenders of the Alamo, Davie Crocket, Jim Bowie and William Travis. San Antonio honors their legend with the biggest party we can conjure and welcomes the 5 million that celebrate annually with a warm abrazo and cerveza. You may come as tourist, but after sharing our culture, food, music and downtown city streets, you leave as familia.

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