More than 100 kids, dogs, and adults strolled through the streets of the historic Monte Vista neighborhood on Sunday morning. Some rode bicycles, others pushed wagons, many held umbrellas in the light rain. Nearly all wore red, white, and blue.

Sunday marked a welcome return of the annual July 4 parade hosted by the Monte Vista Historical Association. Like most Fourth of July celebrations across the nation, the parade was canceled last year in the midst of the pandemic. This year, parades, fireworks, fun runs, and other holiday festivities made a comeback throughout San Antonio.

“This is the first time we’ve had a group gathering,” said Tony Garcia, who has lived in Monte Vista for 15 years and served as the parade’s grand marshal. “It shows the resilience of the people and the neighborhood after such a difficult time. We’re not over the pandemic yet, but we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

In the evening, thousands filled Woodlawn Lake Park while live music boomed from a stage on the northern side of the lake. As darkness settled over the park, attendees turned their gazed upward toward the official city fireworks show.

People watch the fireworks show during the Fourth of July Celebration at Woodlawn Lake Park on Sunday.
People watch the fireworks show during the Fourth of July Celebration at Woodlawn Lake Park on Sunday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

Abdul Savage brought his two sons to Woodlawn Lake Park for their first July Fourth at the park, though Savage had been to the celebration before. Ahead of the fireworks, 3-year-old Ousainou and 6-year-old Jamal flung crackers at a gaggle of ducks, who crowded around the kids waiting for more. The three arrived around 6 p.m., he said, to find parking and a good spot for fireworks viewing away from the main stage and food vendors on the north side of the park.

“It feels good. It’s different, not as crowded as it was two years ago,” he said. “This is not crowded, compared to the last time. There were a lot of food and activities. I think people are leery of how we’re just getting over the coronavirus. … In 2019, this [southern side] was packed.”

This was Bharath Selvaraju and his wife Abhinaya Rajendran’s first July Fourth in San Antonio. The couple moved from Southern California just months before — right before February’s winter storm. They settled into the grass on Sunday with dinner from Church’s Chicken, since the lines to get food from onsite vendors was too long, Selvaraju said. But he was excited to be out for the holiday.

“We wanted to go somewhere after this lockdown. We got vaccinated and wanted to go out,” he said. “We saw this on the local news and that this was the main fireworks.”

Near Selvaraju and Rajendran’s patch of grass, Jessica Martinez chatted with 25 of her friends and family members in their staked-out territory. She and her fiancé Joe Idrogo roped off a section of the park on Saturday night with sticks and string and arrived at 9:30 a.m. Sunday to make sure their claim was safe.

“This is our first year trying to do the ‘claim your space,’” she said. “We saw everyone else doing that so we said, ‘OK, if it works!’ When we got here [in the morning], they were still here.”

Jacob Aleman holds his daughter, Aria, alongside to Gladys Ramirez as they watch fireworks exploding over the neighborhood during the Fourth of July Celebration at Woodlawn Lake Park on Sunday.
Jacob Aleman holds his daughter, Aria, alongside to Gladys Ramirez as they watch fireworks exploding over the neighborhood during the Fourth of July Celebration at Woodlawn Lake Park on Sunday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

This year marked Martinez and Idrogo’s ninth time celebrating July Fourth at Woodlawn Lake Park. The rest of their friends and family trickled in throughout the day, bringing chairs, food, coolers, and a grill. They started the day with a canopy for the shade, Martinez said, but as soon as the sun dipped behind the clouds they broke it down to be ready for the fireworks.

“It’s exciting to see the fireworks again and still be able to gather with friends and family and make new memories,” she said.

Though the Monte Vista parade usually starts and ends at Landa Library, it began Sunday in the parking lot of La Fonda on Main, a San Antonio restaurant staple owned by Cappy Lawton, who donated breakfast tacos and coffee to kick off the event.

Garcia, a retiree, was awarded the grand marshal position for his work in getting part of the neighborhood rezoned. A large area of southern Monte Vista used to be zoned “MF-33,” meaning multifamily residential buildings with up to 33 units per acre were permitted, Garcia explained. That area is now zoned “R-4,” which means people can build single-family homes with a minimum lot size of 4,000 square feet.

Garcia, who served as the historical association’s president in 2014, said he worked on the rezoning matter for three years. City Council approved the rezoning measure late last year.

“For Monte Vista, we consider it a milestone because it enhances the historic character of the neighborhood and meets the mission statement of the Monte Vista Historical Association,” he said.

A Volkswagen Beetle decorated with Americana decor is seen in the Monte Vista Historical Association annual Fourth of July parade on Sunday.
A Volkswagen Beetle decorated in red, white, and blue motors along in the Monte Vista Historical Association annual Fourth of July parade on Sunday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

Resident Julie Wise participated in the parade with her 6-year-old poodle, Ruby Jo, who sported a patriotic dress. This was Wise’s fourth or fifth parade, she estimated, though she’s lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. But each time she has attended, there’s always a sizable crowd.

“There’s a lot of pride in Monte Vista. It’s a historical neighborhood,” she said. “Any time there’s a reason to celebrate, people come out.”

Though rain cut the festivities short, the parade organizers still managed to present awards to parade participants: for best decorated bike, best non-motorized float, even an award for dogs dubbed “Grand Fido.” Trudy Kinnison and husband Paul Kinnison were awarded “Best Costume for Adults,” an honor that was accompanied by a $25 gift certificate to La Fonda on Main. They have lived in the neighborhood for 47 years, Trudy Kinnison said, and were excited to celebrate July 4 the same way they’ve done for decades, though this year she had less responsibility. Usually, she is in charge of the lemonade at Landa Library when the parade ends with a hot dog picnic there, she explained. This year, “all I had to do was show up and have a taco and coffee.”

Kinnison also noted how the parade has changed since she first moved to Monte Vista. Before, there were mostly older residents in the neighborhood with just a few kids, she said. Now, more young families have moved in.

“It’s always for the better to get new blood and young families that want to move here,” she said. “We wanted to come so this would encourage other people to realize this is what we do on July the Fourth, no matter if it’s raining. This isn’t the first time it has rained, but we always have the parade — even if it rains on our parade.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.