Fiesta San Antonio Enchants Visitors Each Spring

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Fiesta San Antonio is a joyous celebration each March that celebrates San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures. Carnivals. Feasts. Parades.

I arrived at The St. Anthony, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Antonio, before the rest of my group, so I decided to unpack, slip on my sandals, and head out to explore the city’s famed River Walk. I reached the waterfront in minutes. Signs of celebration were everywhere as the 10-day Fiesta San Antonio got underway. Brightly colored papel picado (traditional cut-paper banners) fluttered gently. They hung from riverfront bars and eateries and between lush green trees.

Buildings and trees decorated with paper flowers

Tissue paper flowers and papel picado decorated buildings and trees throughout the River Walk. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

A small waterfall gushed into the river, and mariachi played on a bustling restaurant patio. More colorful cut paper wrapped utility poles and stair railings, and brilliant-hued fabric decorated a small footbridge.

Mariachi band playing on a patio

Mariachi played from a restaurant patio as I explored the River Walk. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Along the river, a three-piece band and vocalist performed at the Arneson River Stage. Five bells in the adjacent wall represented the five missions built in the San Antonio area. Several Fiesta-goers sat on cement steps across the water, wearing tall, handcrafted hats full of tissue paper flowers.

People sitting on the river bank wearing brightly colored hats

Guests enjoyed live music while wearing elaborate and brightly colored hats. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

When I returned to my hotel room, I found a margarita ‘kit’ atop a miniature Mexican rug. I had enough time before dinner to combine all the ingredients according to the recipe—sweet and sour refreshment on a hot day.

Margarita kit

Our hotel provided us with in-room margarita ‘kits’. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Our Introduction to Fiesta San Antonio

I finished my margarita and headed downstairs. By early evening we had gathered at the hotel restaurant, Rebelle. This sleek, contemporary, and award-winning eatery is considered the finest seafood restaurant in San Antonio.

During our dinner, the guest speaker was 2017 King Antonio XCV, better known as Dr. Michael A. Casillas. Representing the Texas Cavaliers organization, his was an honorary Fiesta designation.

Festival honorary designee Dr. Michael A. Casillas

Festival honorary designee, 2017 King Antonio XCV, Dr. Michael A. Casillas was our dinner guest speaker. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Since 1989, the Texas Cavaliers’ colorful and vibrant Fiesta River Parade has supported local children’s charities. Additional Participating Member Organizations in this parade also support local charitable activities. Each of these groups designates an Official Fiesta Royalty member.

Fiesta San Antonio History

This joyous citywide celebration has been a springtime staple here since 1891. The initial Fiesta San Antonio event—the Battle of Flowers—honored the memory of Texas heroes. Today, Fiesta recognizes and celebrates San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures.

More than 100 unique activities held throughout the city include carnivals, sports events, fantastic fireworks, and lively entertainment. Ethnic feasts, art exhibits, and more parades also take place.

Making Flowers and Cascarones for the Fiesta

Preparing for Fiesta San Antonio takes many months. And this spectacular annual event wouldn’t be the same without paper flowers lining streets, buildings, and parade floats. Confetti-filled cascarones (colorful, hollowed-out eggs) are another Fiesta fixture. It’s considered good luck to have a cascarón break on your head.

We helped to craft both during our visit to Steves Homestead House Museum. Brilliant-hued tissue paper became dozens of blooming paper flowers within minutes. Though quite functional, our designs paled in comparison to the artistic results from our hosts.

Brightly colored tissue paper flowers

During one afternoon, our group helped to make tissue paper flowers for Fiesta San Antonio. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Next, we filled cascarones with tiny round confetti. We carefully inserted the confetti into a small hole at the end of each decorated egg, before installing another thin layer of tissue to keep the confetti inside until it was time to crack it.

Bowl of confetti to fill the Cascarones

Filling Cascarones with confetti. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

An Evening at the River Parade

During that evening’s River Parade, our group of journalists received some VIP treatment. Before sunset that evening, we arrived at an adjacent plaza. The area was full of banquet and dining tables, with mountains of food and drink.

Outdoor table of food and drinks during the River Parade

A special treat for our group of journalists to enjoy during the River Parade. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

A massive, contemporary mural filled the multi-story wall behind a small stage. Soon, a four-piece band performed a spot-on rendition of one of my favorite entertainers—Santana’s Corazon Espinado, which translates to Thorned Heart.

As the parade began, a large raft full of service members drifted by. The Texas Cavaliers’ float followed, with visitors gazing from the banks of the River Walk. Dozens more floats passed by. As night fell, colored lights lined the façades of commercial buildings, and the massive crowds slowly dispersed.

Texas Caveliers' float

A float hosted by the Texas Cavaliers appeared early in the River Parade. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

In 2022, Fiesta San Antonio will draw local, national, and international visitors from March 21-April 10. You can learn about additional annual San Antonio events online here.

Exploring Historic San Antonio

For a closer look at historic San Antonio, climb the tile-faced steps from the River Walk to La Villita (little village). One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, this artisan and entrepreneur district appears on the National Register of Historic Places. Various architectural styles include adobe and Victorian, plus Texas limestone buildings. Strongly contrasting paint colors fill the one-block neighborhood, which hosts more than 200 events annually—including festive Fiesta activities. During my visit, I admired handcrafted pottery and Mexican collectibles while sipping iced tea against the growing heat.

Tiled steps leading up to La Villita

The charming tiled stairs lead to La Villita, one of San Antonio’s oldest neighborhoods. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

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Honoring Texas history and celebrating San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures, the colorful and vibrant Fiesta San Antonio is an age-old tradition that provides lively entertainment for the entire family. Be sure and visit Wander for more things to do when exploring San Antonio or other areas of Texas.

Fiesta San Antonio is a joyous citywide celebration that has been a springtime staple in Texas since 1891. Today, Fiesta also recognizes and celebrates San Antonio's rich and diverse cultures. More than 100 unique activities take place throughout the city, including carnivals, sports events, fantastic fireworks, and lively entertainment. Ethnic feasts, art exhibits, and more parades also take place at the annual March event.

Fiesta San Antonio Enchants Visitors Each Spring

Written by Lisa Waterman Gray

A Kansas City-area resident, Lisa Waterman Gray has savored Quebec’s finest cuisine, ridden in a pickup before a Kansas buffalo herd, and toured natural Arizona landmarks with Native American guides. In June 2011, 18 months of driving, research, and writing ended with national publication of Lisa’s book, An Explorer’s Guide: Kansas. During October 2014, she was a U.S. delegate for Terre Madre and Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy – a conference for Slow Food International. Lisa has written for Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle (a Canadian magazine), USA Today.com, Midwest Living, four AAA magazines, and other clients. Visit her online at http://www.lisawatermangray.com/.

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