The Fiesta Flambeau Parade makes its way towards downtown on Broadway.
The Fiesta Flambeau Parade makes its way toward downtown on Broadway. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

With a stream of brightly lit marching bands flowing down Broadway and confetti filling the air like colorful snowflakes, Fiesta Flambeau again brought hundreds of thousands of people to downtown San Antonio to light up the evening.

Claimed to be the largest illuminated night parade in the U.S., Flambeau offers revelers the chance to gather under the night sky and appreciate local art, music, and culture. This year’s grand marshal was Chubby Checker, the rock ‘n’ roll singer known for creating the Twist.

The parade, which can draw up to 700,000 attendees, serves as a finale to the major events of San Antonio’s annual 11-day citywide celebration.

“I love it,” said Micha Davila, originally from Dallas, who recently moved to San Antonio from Pennsylvania to attend graduate school.

Davila and her fiancé, Justin Choi, were attending their first Fiesta this year and enjoyed the many mini-fiestas it contains, ranging from Fiesta de los Reyes to Fiesta de la Flor, commemorating the life of South Texas musical icon Selena.

“I just love how much they embrace the culture here,” said Davila, who pointed out a mural of Selena visible from their perch along Broadway.

Farther up Broadway, Amanda Del Leon said the night parade is her favorite event of Fiesta, bringing out San Antonio residents to have fun and enjoy each other’s company in cooler temperatures.

“I think everybody’s kind of hot during the day, and everyone’s more alive at night,” she said.

Members of the Sam Houston High School Marching Band dance as they perform.
Members of the Sam Houston High School Marching Band dance as they perform. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Del Leon was one of many parade-watchers sporting an elaborate hat, though hers was more intricate than most – a purple top hat covered in finely embroidered floral patterns. A chicken-on-a-stick replica jutted out from its crown.

Del Leon was quick to credit the hat to her mother-in-law, Rebecca Medina, a local artist and designer recognized as the 2018 Fashion Artist of the Year in the San Antonio Fashion Awards. Del Leon whipped out a business card showing the life-sized dolls depicting Hispanic women that Medina makes by hand.

Near Broadway and Jones Avenue, Juan Torres contemplated whether to throw back a pre-sealed shooter called a Rattlesnake someone had given him. He drank it, then shrugged.

Torres’ friend Odie Guevara teased him about this being his first Fiesta, even though he had spent several years living in San Antonio off and on. He got his first taste this year of the Fiesta staples of chicken-on-a-stick and massive turkey legs.

“We got him addicted to the No. 1 thing of Fiesta,” Guevara said. “He loves Lone Star.”

“I’m glad we made it,” said Torres, who was in town on a visit.

Not far away, one of the countless examples of Fiesta spirit played out. A passing stranger handed a cold beer to an older man wearing a mustache and sunglasses. Asked if he knew the guy, the beer-giver shook his head and kept on walking.

“Let me give you some money!” said the mustached man, who was not taken up on his offer. He later declined to give his name.

“God bless you, brother,” he yelled as the stranger walked away. “God bless everybody. God bless Fiesta!”

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.

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Scott Ball

Scott Ball is San Antonio Report's photo editor and grew up in San Antonio.