Story by Arthur Cavazos
Out of all of Fiesta San Antonio’s memorable and sometimes even historic events, perhaps one of the most iconic observances is the Texas Cavaliers River Parade, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
The procession along the waters of the San Antonio River downtown — 7-9 p.m. April 22 — will mark the 75th time King Antonio has led the colorful barges, to the delight of hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the River Walk.
With the extension known as the Museum Reach, fans have lots of acreage to view the parade for free.
“The Texas Cavaliers River Parade is the largest fundraiser staged by the membership,” said River Parade Marshal Scott A. Christy. “More than 10,000 volunteer man-hours go into putting on the parade where the floats actually float.”
With colorful powder-blue military-style jackets and red pants, the Texas Cavaliers are easy to spot as they march into action each year for the 11-day citywide family-friendly Fiesta celebration, from April 18-28.
King Antonio — this year, Roger C. Hill III — is selected from among the members to reign over the festivities.
The ranks of the Texas Cavaliers include businessmen, civic leaders and community members who have pledged their support for charities serving area youths.
Perhaps the most notable Fiesta fundraising activity is the tradition-rich River Parade, which first launched in 1941, according to the Cavaliers.
During the last 78 years, the parade was occasionally suspended due to national emergencies such as World War II.
Monies generated are disbursed through the Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation, which was officially organized in 1989, the brainchild of Texas Cavalier Fred W. Middleton. The foundation receives donations from other sources, but perhaps the most high-profile fundraiser is the River Parade, a perennial Fiesta favorite, he said.
“The Cavaliers were founded in 1926. For the last 75 years they have brought joy to the hearts of the children of San Antonio through the parade and the hundreds of school visits by King Antonio,” Middleton said. “To date, the Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation has granted more than $8 million in support of children’s charities.”
Information on the foundation’s mission is at www.texascavaliers.org.
Putting on the River Parade started for Christy the day after last year’s showcase. It’s a labor of love for the Cavaliers, working on the barges, motors and generators, while also selling tickets, medals and program ads, he added.
The 2019 parade’s theme is “It’s Showtime in San Antonio,” and the honorary grand marshal is legendary bull fighter and Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Leon Coffee. The charitable honoree for 2019 is Morgan’s Wonderland.
Assisting Christy are River Parade Vice-Marshal Paul A. Rohlfs Jr. and River Parade Operations Officer Gardner M. Peavy. Under their direction, the King’s Navy operates the barges and the King’s Brigade works ticket gates at the street level.
A little-known fact is why the Texas Cavaliers, originally dedicated to keeping alive the memory of the Alamo heroes and good horsemanship, added a river parade to their civic repertoire.
The story goes that then-San Antonio Mayor Maury Maverick asked the organization to create an event to showcase a project designed by architect Robert Hugman and constructed by the federal Works Progress Administration that would become known as the River Walk.
The Cavaliers had just returned from a group trip — another longtime Cavalier tradition — to Mexico and were inspired by the floating gardens of Xochimilco outside Mexico City.
For more, about the Texas Cavaliers and their charitable foundation, visit www.texascavaliers.org.
Editor’s note: The author is a member of the Texas Cavaliers.