A participant in the King William Fair Parade gestures to people in the crowd. Credit: Courtesy of King William Fair

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The 2019 King William Fair Parade will tell the story of the neighborhood by inviting entries to tell the audience their version of “Who is King William?” The stories will include the history of the land, the people who built and lived in the historic homes, the businesses that support our neighborhood, and most importantly, the people who have created the community we all have grown to love.

The history of the King William area begins well before the Germans settled here in the mid-1800s. In fact, the story begins 300 years ago when the Spaniards found our lush river land perfect for the expansion of their empire. Long story told short, the Spaniards settled in, built the Alamo, and converted the natives to join their community. These San Antonio pioneers used the King William area land for agriculture to provide food for the Alamo community.

Seventy-five years later, our Spanish governor secularized the Missions from the Catholic church. So the 14 Native American families who were dependent on the Alamo were granted a parcel of land plus a bushel of corn in the King William area. The Spanish governor then called upon Pedro Huízar – a Spanish architect, land surveyor, and craftsman who was loved by the natives – to survey the land, which is why the descendants of Pedro Huízar are being honored as the Grand Marshal of the Parade this year. In addition to Huizar’s long list of accomplishments, he is famous for sculpting the Rose Window at Mission San José. Our Grand Marshal will be presented by our local nonprofit bike share, SWell Cycle. Local artist Chris Tilton will create a replica of the Rose Window to accommodate the theme of the float.

The San Antonio Conservation Society will serve as this year’s honor guard. This group of preservationists plays a crucial role in San Antonio’s unique historic and cultural characteristics. Founded in 1924 by 13 women, the San Antonio Conservation Society has helped save our city’s Spanish Colonial missions, historic attractions, and homes. The “great flood” of 1921 encouraged this group to form a Conservation Society. In fact, the constant flooding forced the City to rethink our river. The winning solution was to pour cement in the river to solve the problem. We can’t thank those original 13 women enough for having the sense to fight that idea and support Robert H.H. Hugman’s idea to build a River Walk.

The parade’s story will end by highlighting the King William Association. The Association’s story begins in 1948, but picks up in 1967. The Association needed a fundraiser, so it settled on hosting an annual King William Fair on the last Saturday during Fiesta. The original fair in 1968 was a couple of blocks in the ‘hood featuring local artists, a few food and beverage booths, plus a cake walk. Thanks to the fair and its fairgoers, the King William Association has donated approximately $800,000 in grants and scholarships since 2001. In addition, the association has used the proceeds of the fair to help revive the once-decaying neighborhood.

Several factors including a shortage of housing, economic challenges, the flood of 1921, and San Antonio’s growth contributed to the original homeowners moving out of the neighborhood. Many grand houses were divided into apartments to address the housing shortage, and many properties fell by the wayside and slowly decayed. Once the association formed in the late 1960s, new pioneers began to resettle and restore the area.

The funds raised from vendor booths in the early years of the fair were used to beautify the neighborhood. Simple luxuries like planting trees, adding and repairing sidewalks and lights, and restoring and creating a park around the gazebo have helped to draw  tourists, locals, and entrepreneurs to our neighborhood.

This is the parade’s story in a nutshell. We, the parade entertainers, hope to live up to the saga of our ancestors who have paved the way for our neighborhood and community that we so enjoy.  ¡Viva Fiesta!

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Alicia Spence-Schlesinger

Alicia Spence-Schlesinger is the King William Fair Parade's chief parade wrangler and marketing coordinator.