Roasted Corn is sold to Oyster Bake attendees.
A man buys roasted corn during Fiesta Oyster Bake 2019. The event and others are expected to return in 2022. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

After a nearly two-year pause, Fiesta is ready to return to San Antonio in a pandemic-adjusted format. That means some Fiesta favorites will be missing from the schedule: the St. Mary’s University Oyster Bake and the two largest parades. Cornyation and the event it spoofs, the coronation of the Queen of the Order of the Alamo, won’t happen this year, either.

This year’s Fiesta, held June 17-27 instead of in April, will commence with only about 50 events instead of the regular 115. Fiesta officials say organizational difficulties caused the elimination of some events while some groups decided to sit out 2021 as a precaution as the coronavirus pandemic lingers.

And for some events, the June timing just wasn’t right.

“It would be impossible to hold a parade after schools have been dismissed for summer because of the tremendous amount of work that is done while students are in session,” Melissa Branch, the Battle of Flowers Association’s parade vice president, said in a news release. 

In March 2020, Fiesta initially was postponed to November of the same year before being canceled due to the pandemic.

The traditional Oyster Bake at St. Mary’s University, which typically draws over 70,000 people, is one high-profile event missing from the 2021 schedule. Peter Hansen, the executive director for the St. Mary’s Alumni Association, said multiple reasons contributed to the decision to skip Fiesta 2021. 

“We are concerned about our patrons and our volunteers — we have some thousand volunteers — and 70,000 people over a weekend. It’s a fairly large event,” said Hansen. “The biggest challenge for us was that we got a bunch of national bands that we booked. You can’t keep moving the schedule. … It’s hard to get these guys locked in on contracts. Plus we are on a college campus, and the campus is on a summer break now, so there aren’t many people around.”

The King William Fair and Taste of New Orleans, two other events where food and drink are key parts of the festivities, also won’t return until April 2022 due to health and safety concerns.

Over 50 other smaller events were canceled due to the pandemic and postponement. 

The Arts Fair, famous for spotlighting works of contemporary and traditional artists, is also missing from the June Fiesta schedule. Southwest School of Art President Paula Owen said financial hardship presented the biggest obstacle.

“With arts funding already limited due to COVID, this will be a significant loss for our school. We looked at every possibility to hold our event in June, but it is just not feasible for us this year,” Owen said in a news release.

Visitors also can cross off Cornyation from their Fiesta to-do lists; the unique satirical show is canceled until April 2022. Organizers said it was “the best decision in favor of the safety and well-being of the participants.” Coronation of the Queen of the Order of the Alamo, a grandiose performance at the Majestic Theatre, also has been postponed due to health concerns of the guests.

Steve Rosenauer, executive director of the Fiesta San Antonio Commission, said the adjusted format of the upcoming celebration still provides Fiesta revelers with plenty to do. 

“I’m very proud of the events that are going to be moving forward,” said Rosenauer. “We did a lot of work and a lot of planning starting in the fall, working with the events, getting their feedback on whether they can conduct the event at the full capacity level. … I think it’s really important to know that these events didn’t just make the decisions overnight. There have been months and months of planning to get to this point.”

Filling out this year’s Fiesta schedule are several virtual events joining the party for the first time. Esports Competition, hosted by the Port Authority of San Antonio, kicks off virtual Fiesta at 11 a.m. June 19. Online participants will be able to spectate top Super Smash Bros. players from colleges all around Texas.

Incognito: Fiesta’s Masquerade Dance Dance Dance Party, held by Urban-15, begins at 4 p.m the same day, greeting online participants with live music. The Fredstock Music Fest starts at 5 p.m. June 25, put on by San Antonio College. The Top Teen Healthy Choices Conference concludes the virtual Fiesta events at 10 a.m. June 26 with a workshop on the general and mental health of adolescents. Free links to the events can be accessed online. 

  • Fiesta de Los Reyes at Market Square begins at 10 a.m. June 18 and continues daily through June 27. One of the largest Fiesta events, this celebration welcomes families to enjoy music and festival food staples like funnel cakes, turkey legs, and aguas frescas.
  • The four-day festival A Night in Old San Antonio (NIOSA) launches at 5:30 p.m. June 22 at La Villita. For $20, guests will have access to over 160 booths with food and drinks as well as nine entertainment stages.
  • Commemorating the German heritage within San Antonio, the three-day Gartenfest begins at 5 p.m. June 23 at the Beethoven Halle and Garden. The event offers guests Reuben sandwiches, Leberkäse, Bavarian-style soft pretzels, and many beers and wines.
  • Visitors with kids will have several destinations this Fiesta season. The United Way Kids Festival starts at 9 a.m. June 26 at the Lincoln Park. Festival de Animales happens the same day at 10 a.m. at the San Antonio Zoo and continues until June 27.

Regarding COVID-19 safety protocols, a Fiesta news release states that “individuals who are not vaccinated will need to continue wearing masks at city property events.  For those who are fully vaccinated, Metro Health encourages those individuals to wear masks if they will be attending densely populated Fiesta events.” Events held outside of the city property have varied guidelines depending on the organizer. 

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