It’s one of the most exciting times of the year in San Antonio. When April rolls around, everyone knows Fiesta is just around the corner, and the festive atmosphere pervades the whole city. For those who haven’t encountered Fiesta before, the sudden onslaught of colorful streamers and flowers and medals can seem strange. If you’re among that group, I promise it’s worth it—Fiesta is actually an awesome holiday. Here are some highlights that the new-to-Fiesta crowd should know about:
Night in Old San Antonio: NIOSA is a great way to introduce yourself to the Fiesta atmosphere. For four nights during Fiesta, La Villita transforms into a microcosm of San Antonio’s heritage. With different parts of the area representing different immigrant backgrounds, you’ll find foods, drinks, shopping and entertainment from 15 different cultures. One moment, you’ll be walking through Little Mexico in the “South of the Border” area; the next, you’ll find yourself listening to bagpipes and eating potatoes in the Irish Flat. It’s like San Antonio’s version of Disney’s It’s a Small World ride. And it’s amazing.
Fiesta Traditions: As Fiesta approaches, you might hear references to Fiesta’s royal court. Part of Fiesta’s tradition includes the selection of local “royalty” to serve in roles like King Antonio, El Rey Feo and the Queen of Fiesta, whose court also includes a princess and 24 duchesses. Some members of the royal court are chosen by historic societies like the Order of the Alamo. Others, like Rey Feo, earn their crowns by raising money for scholarship funds. You’ll see another major tradition with the wide variety of Fiesta medals available; many people collect them, and they provide a fun way to commemorate the Fiesta experience.
Fiesta Parades: The holiday incorporates three major parades (in addition to other smaller ones), each of which is unique. The Texas Cavaliers River Parade, hosted by one of the major historical associations, is one of few national parades held on a river. Fiesta Flambeau, which occurs later in Fiesta, is the largest illuminated night parade in the nation. And, of course, one of the most iconic Fiesta events is the Battle of Flowers Parade, first held in the 19th century, which originally celebrated the heroes of the Texas War of Independence. If you have to pick one parade, choose this last one.
Fiesta Parties: For these weeks in April, the city really takes any excuse to party. Start off Fiesta with Oyster Bake, hosted by St. Mary’s University, where music festival meets food festival; with six stages of entertainment and countless food options, you won’t be bored. For a German spin on Fiesta, you can check out the Fiesta Gartenfest at a local beer garden, complete with German food and music. Another event, Cornyation, provides a hilarious performance lampooning various local and national figures and events; one of Fiesta’s most popular events, it also contributes to local HIV/AIDS foundations and scholarships.
Experiencing Fiesta is one of the best ways to feel San Antonio’s sense of community. It has three major premises: celebrating cultural heritage, giving back to the community and having a damn good time. If you’ve never checked it out, it’s about time you joined the festivities. Viva Fiesta!