Not everyone in San Antonio is aware of the city-wide FIESTA that takes over each April especially if they are new to San Antonio. Thanks to fellow San Antonio blogger and native Nebraskan Kelly with Happy Accidents Happen, I'm sharing a Beginner's Guide to FIESTA of sorts. Great idea, Kelly!
Instead of telling you about the events that are happening during FIESTA, I'll direct you to two other local mom blogs who already have great FIESTA event guides. The very resourceful Colleen Pence of San Antonio Mom Blogs posted this year's free (and almost free) family-friendly events here. The moms of Alamo City Mom's Blog have a handy Guide to Fiesta here. You can also find the offical schedule on the FIESTA website here. There's an event for everyone and every family. It's impossible to go to every event. Choose a few for you and your family and enjoy!
Kelly specifically asked for a brief history of this now 18-day-long city-wide party. Here you go: The first FIESTA event was the Battle of the Flowers Parade to honor the heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto in 1891. A festival developed around the celebration which included Royalty courts as a way to help raise money for the celebration and for scholarships. Later, so many events were added to the celebration, a committee was created to organize this once 10-day celebration. Today's FIESTA includes over 100 organizations and each event is hosted by a non-profit organization. The events are fundraisers for hosting organizations and/or scholarships and range from carnivals to pageants to mini-music festivals and more. Two other anchoring FIESTA parades are The Texas Cavalier River Parade and the closing Flambeau Fiesta Parade. All in all, if we are going to party, San Antonio is going to raise some money while we do it.
WHAT FIESTA GO-ERS NEED
When in Rome act like the Romans. When in San Antonio, well, FIESTA! You are going to need (to know) a few things, first.
1. Cascarones. Those hallowed out colored egg shells full of confetti. What do you need them for? To crack on your friends' heads, of course! If you've left a FIESTA event without confetti stuck in your hair, you didn't do something right. Their purpose: FUN. However, they do create a mess so they are best for outdoor events. You can find these local stores or with street vendors. Tip for a friendly cascarones celebration: Break the egg in your hand BEFORE you tap someone else on the head. Don't hurt the person by smashing it directly on their head.
2. A FIESTA Hat – You can buy one but that's no fun. Creating one is the way to go! I've seen some extravagant ones with twinkle lights or even a whole piñata on the hat! They need lots of color, a bit of San Antonio and your personal style. Hats have become such a large part of FIESTA culture, you can find an entire exhibit of them at the Institute of Texan Cultures. For the kids, of course, they can have their own hats but you will also find that at any event with crafts for kids like the FIESTA Art Fair there will be a chance for them to create their own Fiesta crown.
My 2013 mini Fiesta Hat!
Also read Fiesta, Food, Familia and Friends
3. FIESTA Medals – There doesn't seem to be one solid answer to when the tradition of FIESTA medals actually began. I've heard it was first started by a Colonel in the Army who thought it'd be a great way to celebrate since medals are used to decorate military uniforms. I've heard that one FIESTA king punched holes in coins passed them out and people began to wear them. Nonetheless, FIESTA go-ers are crazy for their medals. You will see FIESTA royalty with their sashes full of medals the same as non-royalty with same amount if not more medals worn on sashes. The opening FIESTA-FIESTA event is usually the best time to trade and gain medals. However, you can find them throughout FIESTA. Organizations will run contests to giveaway medals, host luncheons, or simply sell them as a fundraider. Tip: Have a ribbon or sash to pin all medal on or wear something you won't mind pinning.
Local Artist Blas Hernandez painted the design and the West SA Chamber of Commerce chose to use it as their 2014 medal.
4. Start Your Diet in May – En serio, there's no fiesta without great food. Some events are centered solely around the food like Oyster Bake, Taste of New Orleans and Taste of the Northside. At Oyster Bake, over 100,000 oysters are consumed either fried, baked or raw. My personal favorite FIESTA food is Maria's Tortilla's at NIOSA. It's a freshly made corn tortilla with melted butter, red salsa and grated cheese. To. Die. For. However, you can't finish a FIESTA season without a chicken-on-a-stick. Deep fried chicken with a jalapeño and a skewer stuck through it, this traditional FIESTA food is a must. There must be rule somewhere that you can only have food that you can eat with one hand. That's probably because you are carrying your favorite cold beverage in the other hand. (or pushing that stroller)
5. FIESTA Wreath and Papel Picado – You will learn who are FIESTA go-ers in your neighborhood as you see FIESTA wreaths and papel picado appear on doors and on porches. Bright colors fill homes to celebrate the season! Again, if you are crafty, you can create your own. If not, many boutiques and artists sell both wreaths and papel picado.
My first FIESTA wreath hanging on my front door!
MORE FIESTA TIPS
Have cash ready for parking. Whether you head downtown or to St. Mary's for Oysterbake, be prepared to pay for parking. Average $15. Visit YellowCabSA to take their pledge to not drink and drive. They will be handing out $20 Taxi Cards.
Most events operate on a coupon basis. That means that instead of purchasing food with cash or credit cards, you will purchase coupons from a coupon booth and use those as your currency.
Buy your tickets for the parade ahead of time if you want a reserved seat. There's a small chance that you could find a spot to watch the parade but it's easier when you already have seats waiting for you.
Strollers are not allowed at every event. I know for sure that they are not allowed at NIOSA. Double check on websites if you intend on using one.
It will be extra crowded wherever you go. So, there's that. Be patient. Be prepared. (I always carry a stash of toilet paper. Don't laugh. It's usually only port-a-potties and never enough TP.)
FIESTA is a great time to well, party! Drink responsibly. Recycle responsibly. Also, have fun! Consider sharing your cascarones. Have extra beads to hand out to others! When possible, dale un grito or shout ¡VIVA FIESTA!
For all official information about FIESTA events and to purchase tickets, visit Fiesta-SA.org.