Some Fiesta San Antonio events are parades; some are fairs. Some are for the kids; some are for the adults. Some are all about the entertainment; some are about the food or the people watching. The King William Fair, a longtime fan favorite, is all of the above.
The very first King William Fair in 1968 was little more than an art-filled block party for the residents of the (not quite so hip yet) area. Then as now, the King William Association puts on the fair as a part of its overall efforts to celebrate and preserve what is the oldest historical neighborhood in the state of Texas.
Since its humble and quirky beginnings, the King William Fair has grown exponentially. Long an official event, the fair now draws over 30,000 people annually on the final Saturday of Fiesta. It has become a tradition for many locals to treat the fair as a kind of de facto last dance with Fiesta each year.
This year’s fair will take place on Saturday, April 27, with the parade that kicks it all off beginning at 9 a.m. and stepping off from East Guenther Street at Eagleland Drive near Brackenridge High School. The fair lasts until 6 p.m.
The theme for this year’s parade, typically a kitschy and homegrown affair that defers to humor over pageantry, is “Who is King William?” As such, segments of the parade have been assigned parts to play in visually telling the story of the area and its people over the years.
Starting back in the 1600s and proceeding all the way to present day, with detours to tell culturally relevant side stories about individuals and communities that have shaped the neighborhood, this year’s parade will offer a lighthearted look at the spirit of the King William neighborhood and how it has evolved. Detailed information on the parade, its participants, and the story it looks to tell is available here.
In terms of the fair itself, which begins when the parade ends, one of its biggest draws is its prime location along the river and throughout parts of the picturesque neighborhood.
Retired attorney, avid arts supporter, and longtime King William resident Mike Casey has been a part of the King William Fair for more than 40 years, including as Fair chairman in 1977 and 1983, “back when we had to make the food ourselves.” To him, the best thing about the fair is “the aesthetic.”
“Being surrounded by the wonderful architecture and the landscaping and all the historic charm is just so special – I can’t imagine a better place to be,” he said.
Casey remembers that, when he first moved to the neighborhood in 1972, the whole thing had much more of a “quaint, tiny neighborhood feeling.” He is, however, thrilled with all the growth the fair has experienced since.
“One of the biggest things is how it encourages everyone in the neighborhood to get out and even to host pre-parties and post-parties,” he said.
This year’s fair will feature more than 60 food vendors, spanning the spectrum from gourmet options to classic fair fare, and more than 200 arts and crafts vendors. After all, it wouldn’t be Fiesta in one of San Antonio’s most robust arts districts without a strong showing from creatives of all types.
Apart from the parade, which Casey said “makes [his] heart leap when the Brackenridge band kicks it off,” this year’s fair, as in previous years, offers a lengthy entertainment lineup with a little something for all ages and tastes.
Casey said that “it is a continual surprise and delight” for him to see the fair grow.
He’s still holding out hope that King William Association members might one day get to wear special badges to the fair that read “I can crawl home from here.”