When I arrived at Brackenridge High School to meet up with the rest of the Rivard Report staff for the start of the King William Parade, I didn’t know what to expect.
Fiesta is colorful and loud – it’s puro San Antonio. Big parades have marching bands, floats, and Fiesta royalty decked in shiny suits and sparkly dresses. But the King William parade is known for it’s more laid back style. Many people describe it as “eclectic,” and eclectic it was.
I saw men and women in bedazzled suits, faux Texas Cavaliers in red tutus, the Pig Liquors owner wearing a pig head and pretending to chug a bottle of tequila, an Ozzy Osbourne impersonator from Cornyation, bellydancers, and a woman dressed in black walking on stilts.
The first person I tried to interview handed me a mimosa, just as they were putting decorative finishing touches on their quirky bike for the parade. Then I met a lady dressed up as a butter stick. Carol Sowa has been “butter” at the King William Parade for 19 years. Butter’s debut 19 years ago involved a truck decorated to look like a toaster, with Sowa trailing behind in her bright yellow suit. Over the years, she has joined different groups in the parade – this year Sowa joined the bellydancing group, so her butter suit was decorated with clinking jewelry and she threw in a pair of finger cymbals.
“I was trying to come up with something cheap that we could do and I found a box – it was the shape of the butter stick, and I thought maybe we could attach it to side of the van to go with the toast,” Sowa said. “But that wasn’t going to work so then we thought of putting holes in it but no one wanted to wear the butter. So I did. This year I’m the bellydancing butter, long ago I was a belly dancer.”
Sowa had so much fun that she “tried to work the butter” into the parade every year since. She remembers one parade where she walked by someone in a cow costume.
“Butter just tastes good and it’s bright and yellow and happy,” Sowa said. Her favorite part of being in the parade is waving at people and making kids smile. “It’s fun to make people smile.”
Scott Dorlaque came down from Austin and brought his “back to the future” car for the parade. He built it himself. And what did the Rivard Report do? Well we decided to pedal through the parade on a 15-person mega cycle, CycloFiesta.
In addition to wearing a blue shirt that said “I wanted to dress up, but I was on DEADLINE” – a true struggle for any journalist – we decided to wear Fiesta crowns, feather boas, quirky glasses, and fun hats. We amped up the music and began to wave to the crowd. Chihuahua’s wearing fun costumes, children wearing an array of technicolor beads, and people wearing decorative hats greeted us as we threw Fiesta medals in the air.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson about shiny medals during this season: San Antonians really love their Fiesta medals. The moment we started handing a few out, a mob started to form beside the CycloFiesta and more and more people clamored for one. Most of the people walking by had sashes full of Fiesta medals, and many avid participants have been collecting them for years.
Toward the end of the parade as we neared the historic houses, we come upon an endless row of booths, some serving food, some selling shiny jewelry, and others even selling art.
“It’s quite an experience,” said Molly Groff, who drove a truck as her husband Joey played a Calliope organ in the back. “There’s walkers, there’s bikes, there’s wagons. You can’t have that in the other parades – this is like a circus in a parade.”
Seeing people out on the sidewalk and others in their front yards preparing barbecues also taught me another thing about Fiesta. At its core, even amidst the cascarones, glitz, the glamour, the fun, and the crazy, it’s all about coming together as a community and just having a good time.
¡Que Viva Fiesta!