With the Battle of Flowers and the Flambeau parades absent from this year’s Fiesta schedule, the Texas Cavaliers River Parade took the focus Monday night as the 11-day event’s only major parade, resuming an 80-year-old tradition.

An estimated 250,000 people gathered along the River Walk to enjoy decorated barges, food and drinks from local restaurants, and a rare in-person celebration as the coronavirus pandemic eases. The sold-out parade was hosted at 100% capacity with no mask requirement for those fully vaccinated.

The 2021 parade borrowed its theme — “20/20 Vision” — from last year’s, when Fiesta was canceled completely because of the pandemic.

“The theme was selected to capture the unique visions of many individuals, community organizations, and many others across San Antonio,” King Antonio XCVIII Phillip Peacock Bakke said in his opening speech. “Tonight, we are here to celebrate that community with its own vision to better the world and achieve their goals and dreams.”

Community organizations decorated 52 barges to greet parade visitors along the River Walk. Each had its own interpretation of the theme. Some created a dreamy, fairytale-like display of rainbows, unicorns, or butterflies like the Alamo Gardenia & Music Club and the Children’s Bereavement Center. A Texas flag with sparkling bluebonnets was the Conservation Society of San Antonio’s motif.

Some groups made social statements. Visit San Antonio had disco dancers holding multicolored fans celebrating Pride Month. The Methodist Healthcare System’s “Vision to Protect” display commemorated the dedication of health care workers this past year.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, along with the newly sworn-in City Council members, greeted visitors on their own barge, dancing and shaking maracas.

Founded in 1926, the Texas Cavaliers is an organization of 600 business, civic, and community leaders whose mission is to give back to the San Antonio community. Following its tradition, the Texas Cavaliers will donate all money raised during the parade to support local children’s charities through its Charitable Foundation. This year’s fundraising will aid more than 80 beneficiaries, including the Texas Diaper Bank, Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, and Girls Inc. of San Antonio. The Will Smith Zoo School became the 2021 charitable honoree, receiving more than $1 million.

Polina Protozanova

Polina is a Shiner Editorial Intern for the San Antonio Report.