San Antonio Events: Fiesta San Antonio
Fiesta San Antonio
Celebrate Texas-style at this city’s biggest annual party and learn how to score tickets and which of the multiple flashy parades and decadent food booths shouldn’t be missed.
What if a city already devoted to food and festivals decided to throw an 11-day party? That’s exactly what San Antonio does each year with Fiesta, now in its 118th year. The event began in 1891 when local women paraded through the streets with flowers to honor soldiers at the Alamo and San Jacinto, and it has become a tradition that is more robust than ever, encompassing more than 100 affiliated events held all over the city. This year the celebration runs from April 16 to 26.
Though there is a mind-boggling selection of events, with wide-ranging titles like Fiesta Lacrosse Festival, Piñatas in the Barrio and Chips N Salsa (with “Chips” referring to poker and not the ubiquitous snacks), many Fiesta attendees focus on a handful of the most popular and enduring events, and mix in a couple of smaller or newer events each year as stamina and schedules warrant.
The best-attended events are a pair of parades along the same downtown route: the daytime Battle of Flowers parade on Fiesta’s final Friday (April 24, 2009) and the evening Fiesta Flambeau parade the following night.
Each parade can draw more than half a million people to watch the floats and high school bands; while the best seats are ticketed, it’s possible to find decent views on sidewalks along the route. However, San Antonians take a peculiar pride in claiming their spots hours before the parade and making a sport of waiting, so if you arrive just prior to the parade, stand tall or be prepared to crane your neck quite a bit. Note: Battle of Flowers Day is a city holiday, so schools and a number of businesses—though not tourist-oriented ones, to be sure—close for the day (or at noon).
The third of the three noteworthy parades, traditionally held on Fiesta Monday, is the Texas Cavaliers River Parade, involving boats and barges on the San Antonio River along the River Walk. While its audience of 250,000 seems small compared to the other two parades, it’s in the more confined quarters of the River Walk, and only 17,000 of the seats are ticketed and reserved. As a result, parade goers either settle in at one of the many restaurants on the River Walk before it starts, or find vantage points on one of the many bridges looking down on the river at street level—wherever they can squeeze in.