By Friday mid-day, thousands of folding chairs and bleachers set up along Broadway were almost completely filled with Fiesta fans ready for the 125th annual Battle of Flowers Parade.
After a rainy week that soaked several Fiesta events, it was clear Friday morning that there would be no raining on this parade as the sun was high in a nearly cloudless sky. Nearing the start of the parade, little girls wearing colorfully-embroidered Mexican-style dresses and flower crowns scurried along the event route. Families wandered in search of seats, while food and drink vendors began to take orders for fried chicken-on-a-stick, corn in a cup, raspas, and other classic Fiesta foods for the nearly 300,000 attendees expected to attend the festivities.
As one of the biggest Fiesta San Antonio events, the parade is a collision of culture, history, and celebration, and this year featured a few firsts that made its 125th anniversary even more memorable.
At mid-day, a flyover by two T-38 Fighter Jets – the first flyover in Battle of Flowers history – signaled the start of the parade, followed by a special performance by the world-renown Texas State Strutters in Alamo Plaza. Soon after, Broadway was transformed into a runway for elaborate, technicolor floats, marching bands, and song and dance performers, young and old.
Fiesta queens and duchesses stood atop their floats and answered the loud “Show me your shoes!” calls from the crowds by proudly revealing their cowboy boots and other shoes unlikely to be found underneath their elegant, bedazzled dresses, while others tossed Fiesta medals into the sea of people as they passed by.
Local, longtime businesswoman and civic leader Rosemary Kowalski waved to attendees atop a float as the parade’s Grand Marshal, a title bestowed each year upon a prominent figure in the city. Retired Major General Angela Salinas, the first Hispanic woman to become a United States Marine Corps general officer, served as Honorary Grand Marshal, marking this year’s Battle of Flowers parade as the first to have women assume both titles at once.
The first Battle of Flowers – entirely organized by a group of women who pelted each other with actual flowers – took place in 1891 and paid tribute to the fallen heroes in the Battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico. The beloved San Antonio tradition has continued annually, and is still produced entirely by women who are all volunteers.
Along with the parade, the Battle of Flowers Association supports the educational, artistic, social and philanthropic achievements of their community’s youth and nonprofits by sponsoring parade entry fees and allowing nonprofits the opportunity to fundraise for worthy causes, by selling more than 45,000 parade seats each year.
Many of Friday’s attendees will be back for more celebration on Saturday at the Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade, another festive favorite that draws thousands of residents and visitors each year.