Learn About the Origins of the Battle of Flowers Parade
The Battle of Flowers parade is one of the biggest highlights of Fiesta, but it comes from humble beginnings. Learn more about its origins here.
If you live in Texas, you know all about the oldest Fiesta celebrated every April in San Antonio and it’s beautiful fiesta medals. Maybe you’ve joined the millions of other people who enjoy the parades and shatter colorful cascarones. You might call them confetti-filled eggshells.
This historical procession is the heart and soul of San Antonio. But, do you know how the Battle of Flowers Parade at Fiesta de San Antonio began?
How the Battle of Flowers Parade Began
The first Battle of the Flowers Parade took place on April 21, 1891, when a group of upper class, Anglo women decorated their carriages and horses. They rode them in front of the Alamo and threw cherry blossoms at one another.
The first fun-filled flower fight evolved into the Battle of Flowers Parade. The ladies organized the parade to honor those who fought and died at the Alamo. It’s also an honorary celebration of the Battle of San Jacinto.
Ellen Maury Slayden, the wife of Congressman James L. Slayden came up with the idea for the parade. When she made a visit to Spain, she saw a similar parade.
She talked it over with several women from San Antonio, and they formed the Battle of Flowers Parade Committee. They shared their plans with the local leaders who supported the parade idea.
About the Battles at the Alamo and San Jacinto
The battle at the Alamo happened before dawn on March 6, 1836. General Antonio de Santa Anna led columns of Mexican soldiers to the Alamo. They stormed the walls and overtook the fort. Over 180 Texas defenders were killed by sunrise.
In seven weeks, the Texans formed an army to avenge their lost Alamo brothers. They met Santa Anna and his army at San Jacinto. They defeated the Mexican army, winning Texas independence.
This is why the Daughters of the Republic of Texas began their preservation efforts with the Battle of Flowers Parade. They felt it was their duty to honor the heroes who fought for Texas.
First Battle of Flowers Parade
The ladies got down to business, decorating carriages and floats with fresh flowers. What made this parade so unique was when the ladies divided the carriages into two groups. Each of the groups started toward the Alamo from different directions.
As the carriages passed each other, each group threw flowers at the other. By the fourth annual parade, it turned into a week-long festival.
King and Queen of the Festival
What’s a festival without a king and queen? So, the tradition of choosing the Queen of the Order of the Alamo started in 1896. The following year, a king was chosen.
The people loved the tradition and soon after a full royal court formed. The court included a princess and duchesses. This tradition still takes place today featuring the queen and king, along with 12 local duchesses and 12 chosen from out of town.
In 1926 and 1926 naming a king stopped, but the queen and her court never faltered.
Being selected queen is one of the highest honors in San Antonio society. Every year the gown became more dazzling than the year before.
Order of Alamo Formed
John Carrington, Secretary of the Business Men’s Club replaced the Battle of Flowers Association in 1909. He formed a new committee called Order of the Alamo. This new organization made up of prominent men of San Antonio took over the selection of the Royal Court of the parade.
They chose the queen and her royal court from all over Texas. Carrington also decided to name a king again in 1927.
He formed the San Antonio Cavaliers. Carrington succeeded in returning the king to the court. The selected kings were businessmen, such as bankers, lawyers and shop owners.
By 1915, the Battle of Flowers Parade in San Antonio grew so much, they started decorating the floats and carriages with artificial flowers.
What Do the Fiesta Medals Mean?
Colorful, shimmering fiesta medals date back to 1946. The Texas Cavaliers had small coins made as gifts to bring to children in the hospital. They called them ‘king’s coins.’
Joske’s department store created cardboard holders for the coins in 1961. The holders also had a hole in the top where the Cavaliers could insert a ribbon. This was so they could hang the coins around their necks.
In 1971, many Fiesta organizations started making fiesta medals. The medals didn’t become popular until Lieutenant Colonel Childers came up with the idea of making Fiesta-themed medals.
Now, people collect hundreds of these colorful medals, wearing them to the Fiesta. Some people wear so many, they’re weighed down by the jingling Fiesta medals. Every year, medal collectors buy, sell and trade their medals, always on the lookout for a rare find.
Other Events Added to the Fiesta
The Fiesta continued to grow through the years as other events were added to the schedule. In 1925, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas began a new tradition that’s still observed today.
They make the Pilgrimage to the Alamo. Participants include schools, patriotic organizations, and the military. They all march to the Alamo. When they go inside, they read the names of all the heroes who fought at the Battle of the Alamo.
Other events added to the Fiesta were carnivals, balls, and coronation ceremonies.
Night of Old San Antonio
As the crowds continued partying, the San Antonio Conservation Society started hosting, ‘Night in Old San Antonio.’ It’s still celebrated today for four consecutive nights. It began as a recreation of early San Antonio life.
People wear authentic costumes, sombreros, and paper flower coronas. Today, it’s a magical night of food, song, and dance on the south bank of the San Antonio River.
Officially Named the Fiesta San Antonio
Every year more revelers came to the week-long celebration, so the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce made it official in 1959. They named the Battle of Flowers celebration, the Fiesta San Antonio.
It became such a popular event, they formed the Fiesta San Antonio Commission to organize the week’s events.
Battle of Flowers Parade Today
Today, the ladies of the Battle of Flowers Association wear yellow hats and dresses to the parade they founded. They still promote the history and patriotism of San Antonio, Texas.
The parade is the spirit of the Fiesta San Antonio. It now has over 40 flower-decorated floats and horse-drawn carriages. The military, college and high school bands also take part.
It’s now an 11-day celebration with over 75,000 volunteers and over 100 events. The Battle of Flowers Parade and Fiesta celebrates not only the heroes of the Alamo and San Jacinta but all the veterans who have made sacrifices ever since.
This year’s parade takes place on April 26, 2019. The Battle of Flowers Parade route starts at the corner of E. Grayson and Broadway. The parade finishes at the corner of W. Martin and Broadway.
Get your sombrero and your fiesta medals for the 128th Battle of Flowers Parade. Contact us for our early bird specials so you can add to your fiesta-medal collection. Get ready to party.