The St. George Episcopal School float.
The St. George Episcopal School participates in the Battle of Flowers Parade during Fiesta in 2019. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The Fiesta San Antonio Commission and the City of San Antonio jointly announced Monday that Fiesta will take place June 17-27 instead of in April. Two of the celebration’s signature events, the Battle of Flowers and the Fiesta Flambeau parades, were canceled by organizers.

Following initial postponement last year from its regular April slot to November, Fiesta 2020 was finally canceled and rescheduled for April 15-25 of this year. However, a continuing post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases and a slower than expected rollout of COVID-19 vaccines put the April date in question.

In a statement released by the Fiesta Commission, Mayor Ron Nirenberg emphasized safety as the primary reason for the postponement until summer.

“Delaying Fiesta 2021 until June puts safety first, and it is the right move for our community,” Nirenberg said, mentioning the City’s ongoing vaccination efforts.

“We are working to be in a better position by June,” he said. “We are deeply appreciative of the Fiesta San Antonio Commission’s willingness to work with the city’s health professionals to ensure San Antonian’s safety.”

In what was described as an “extraordinary step,” the Fiesta Commission retained noted physician Martin “Marty” Makary to advise on safety protocols and considerations for potential Fiesta activities.

In the statement, Makary praised the City’s emphasis on safety and projected June to be an appropriate time to resume events.

“Based on current data on viral transmission, June is projected to be a very low point in the viral prevalence in the area, given the high levels of natural and vaccinated immunity we will achieve by May,” Makary said.

The scale and scope of Fiesta 2021 is not yet clear, according to Steve Rosenauer, the newly hired executive director of the Fiesta Commission, because each participating member organization must determine whether the June slot is workable.

“One of the things that makes Fiesta special is that each individual organization and event is unique,” each with its own logistics and operations, he said.

The annual Oyster Bake, for example, was canceled Jan. 22, and Rosenauer confirmed that the 2021 Battle of Flowers and Fiesta Flambeau parades have been canceled. The Southwest School of Art announced later in the day that the 2021 annual Fiesta Arts Fair would be canceled, which Paul Owen, the school’s president, called “a tough decision for us to make” and “a significant loss for our school.” Owen said the fair would take place in 2022.

Some Fiesta traditions will be maintained, Rosenauer said, including the Texas Cavaliers River Parade, which will be held in June alongside other Fiesta activities. Rosenauer also confirmed that Fiesta De Los Reyes and A Night In Old San Antonio will occur and Market Square will hold events.

What those events look like, in terms of scale and safety protocols, also will depend on data and pandemic conditions as June draws closer, Rosenauer said.

“We’re going to be in constant communication, making sure that you’re sure that we know what the protocols are going to be,” he said.

Rosenauer said that holding Fiesta in 2021 is important to “the morale of our city,” but the postponement is actually a positive thing. “We’re finding a time where, based on the information and feedback that we receive, that it will be a safe time to conduct Fiesta.”

Fiesta Commission President Walter Serna is in agreement with the decision to postpone, Rosenauer said. “He really wants to make sure that we’re making these decisions based on the health and safety of our of our Fiesta family,” Rosenauer said.

“Our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of our patrons and volunteers and everybody involved in Fiesta.”

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...