A Battle of Flowers parade float has given a group of Southside High School students a real-life lesson in geopolitics.

Fifteen students had been scheduled to ride a float in the Fiesta parade’s public school section that followed this year’s Battle of Flowers theme, “¡Viva Las Flores!” The public school section theme was “Global Gardens” and the Southside float was titled “From Russia With Love.”

The themes were set months earlier. But as Russian troops prepared to invade Ukraine in February, drawing the attention of the world, it became clear a change was in order. A conversation between the Battle of Flowers Association, which puts on the parade, and the Southside students and faculty advisor resulted in a new theme for the float: “Expressions of Eastern Europe — Sunflowers Will Bloom Again.”

The revamped float will pay tribute to Ukraine by placing the war-torn country’s national flower, the sunflower, in the Global Garden. 

“Our students are definitely aware of the situation in Ukraine,” said Randy Escamilla, director of public relations for Southside Independent School District. “Our students just want to show their support for the people of Ukraine.”

The students from Southside High were selected to ride on the float because of their strong academic performance, Escamilla said. The float will feature an Eastern European town square accompanied by Polish polka music.

“The Battle of Flowers parade organizers were so understanding,” said Escamilla. “They couldn’t have been better collaborators with our school district in switching the theme of the float.” 

The Battle of Flowers Parade, which hasn’t occurred since 2019 because of the pandemic, features a section of local public school groups that participate on a rotating basis. In addition to spirit groups and bands, nine schools have floats in the parade this year, including Southside High. Also participating with Global Gardens-themed floats are Alamo Heights, Brennan, Clark, John Jay, L.E.E., Memorial, Roosevelt and Sam Houston high schools.

“I just want to encourage everyone who sees the expressions of Eastern Europe parade float to support Ukraine and support our students at Southside High School,” Escamilla said. “They have worked very hard and it’s an honor for them to ride on this float.”

Correction: The Battle of Flowers Association puts on Fiesta’s annual day parade. A previous version of this story misnamed the group.

Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.