For Valerie Hernandez, the Battle of Flowers Parade was back, but it wasn’t quite the same.
Hernandez, her family and friends adjusted to unfamiliar seats along North Main Street to watch the highly anticipated return of the Battle of Flowers Parade Friday. Hernandez’s friends arrived at 5 a.m., ready for the grand Fiesta celebration with a cooler full of tamales and drinks.
For years, the Fiesta parades marched toward downtown beginning at Broadway near the Pearl District. Because of ongoing construction on Broadway most of the route for the Battle of Flowers and Saturday night’s Fiesta Flambeau had to be moved west.
As a result, Hernandez said her family had to relocate from their usual spot on the corner of Broadway between Third and Fourth streets.
“It hurts us when they moved the location because we’re so used to being at the same corner and the same spot,” said Hernandez.
There, several food vendors and restrooms were within reach if needed. Now, Hernandez’s group were near the San Antonio College campus.
“It was just very convenient,” she said of her former parade-watching spot. “Now that we moved, it’s kind of like, ‘Where is everything at now?’ It’s new for us.”
But many of the thousands of parade-goers didn’t mind a new vantage point. They were just happy to see the return of a Fiesta highlight that hadn’t been held in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.
Margie Villanueva and Eddie Diaz arrived at 8 a.m. to take their seats along North Main Street. They both wore big Fiesta-decorated hats, and Diaz, a vest full of pinned medals. For the couple, going to the parade has been a tradition for “many, many years.”
“Now that it’s back, it’s awesome,” she said.
Dionne Padron, who attended with two of her children, said for the past 22 years, the parades and Fiesta have been a part of her children’s culture.
Not having the parades “doesn’t bring the community together at all,” she said. “This is life. This is a tradition. I want [my children] to engage and to keep the tradition with their kids, too, going forward.”
Along the parade route, children of all ages jumped up and down as floats passed, many conveying the parade’s ¡Viva Las Flores! theme, and marching bands played. The crowds reacted with cheers to floats carrying the Order of the Alamo duchesses, wearing their intricately beaded gowns with eye-catching trains depicting peacocks, forests, fish and even a Gustav Klimt painting.
Many parade watchers wore flower crowns. Others wore hats and some held umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun, although the temperatures stayed in the 70s.
Although there appeared to be more empty seats along the revised route than usual for a Battle of Flowers Parade, the crowd at Alamo Plaza was enthusiastic as the float bearing the parade’s grand marshal, former astronaut Eileen Collins passed, followed by UTSA’s Spirit of San Antonio band.
Bobby Sanchez and his family had front row seats along Alamo Plaza. They took a VIA bus to arrive one hour before the parade started to get a good spot.
Sanchez, 73, has attended the Battle of the Flowers Parade for 60 years, returning after the two years the parade wasn’t held to the seats he had in 2019 across from the Alamo.
“We used to sit on Broadway, and now we moved over here,” said Sanchez.