Fiesta SAN ANTONIO 2019 may be one of the last years the Battle of Flowers Parade stops in front of the Alamo.
Changing the route may be the new norm, according to President Anna-Laura Block of the Battle of Flowers Association, due to construction downtown and the upcoming restoration and changes related to the Alamo Master Plan.
“We’ve always been in front of the Alamo, that’s the one steadfast thing,” Block said.
Since the founding Fiesta event began in 1891 to highlight Texas independence, the association has changed the parade route only 10 times.
This year’s route is 2.6 miles and will remain the same except for a slight diversion off of Commerce Street onto Dolorosa Street and then back to Commerce because of ongoing construction.
The change occurs near the end of the route where the parade disbands.
The procession started as way to honor the fallen heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto, the latter where Texian forces wrested control of Texas away from Mexico to gain independence.
As part of the observance, floral wreaths are placed on the Alamo’s lawn by San Antonio Academy cadets as a tribute to those who lost their lives fighting for freedom in 1836.
Cadets have been participating in the parade since 1938. The school’s honor guard symbolically guards the shrine of Texas freedom, officials said.
Boys in fifth through eighth grades take part in the observance, but only eighth-graders are allowed to accept the floral tributes to place on the Alamo’s lawn.
As part of the ceremony, past association presidents will form a solemn line and place a yellow rose on each wreath as the cadets proceed to the mission.
“It’s kind of a ‘wow’ moment for those that are participating and those that are watching,” Block said.
This year, the only women-led parade in the country is celebrating 128 years of tradition with a theme of “For the Love of Texas.” San Antonio-born country singer Pat Green is the parade grand marshal.
Fiesta is April 18-28.
“(Green) recognizes what the Battle of Flowers is about, the education part, the honoring part. That made it an even better choice,” said Kelly Kennedy, the vice president in charge of the parade.
The parade attracts more than 550,000 spectators. This year it will be held on April 26; the step-off is at East Grayson Street and Broadway, with the vanguard at 8:55 a.m. featuring 1,000 high school and college ROTC participants.
The parade follows at 9:30 a.m. with floats, marching bands, carriages, wagons, antique cars, drill teams and cavalcades on horseback.
“It is a visual treat, starting from the floats and the flowers and the people,” Block said. “It’s a diverse culture coming together. It’s everybody, all ages, all races.”
The floral tribute is at 10 a.m.
In addition, this year marks the first time the grand marshal has his own float.
Under the “For the Love of Texas” theme, several public high schools including Lanier, Warren, South San, MacArthur and more will take parade-goers on a trip around Texas with floats revolving around the theme of “For the Love of Dynamic Discoveries.”
Other sub-themes include “For the Love of Legends and Lore,” “For the Love of Growing Native,” “For the Love of Texas Critters,” “For the Love of Texas on the Silver Screen Great Scenes,” “For the Love of Toe Tapping Tunes,” “For the Love of Texas Smarts,” “For the Love of Fantastic Fandangos” and “For the Love of the Land.”
“Every year you just get so excited about the parade. We wrap up this great gift and give it to San Antonio. It’s so wonderful, because everybody pulls together and it’s fun to be a part of it,” Kennedy said.
Flowers for each float are created by hand with crepe paper, foil and wire, using only scissors, rulers and a paper cutter.
Rose Garcia, a second-generation member, has been making flowers since 1970. She was offered one of the few paid positions with the association in 1990. She and six other women create about 600 flowers per float.
“It’s fun because it’s nieces, cousins; they work and get together, we talk about our families, we get visits from our family, we eat together and we gossip,” Garcia said.
One of the highlights of the parade is the presentation of the new court of the Order of the Alamo. Floats are designed to showcase the Fiesta court and its members’ intricate gowns with long trains. The queen and princess each have their own float, with duchesses spread out among others.
Many of the flowers that Garcia and her team make adorn the court’s floats.
Advice for first-timers: Make sure to wear a hat, have sunglasses, come hydrated and bring a good mood. Don’t forget to carry cash for “fun” street food, mementos and, of course, Fiesta medals.
“Rest your voice because you’re going to get ready to sing, or scream or laugh along the way,” Kennedy said.
Tickets are available at battleofflowers.org.
The women-only association has 600 members, with many spanning generations from mother to daughter to granddaughter.
At the moment, the association has 400 active members, each of whom is committed to serve for 25 years. Afterward, they become honorary members.
“Everybody is always so gracious with their time and talents, that’s the thing,” Block said. “The talents that they bring to the table are priceless. Just like the flowers.”