SAN ANTONIO – Fiesta has a certain charm that’s able to captivate the minds of people who have either lived in San Antonio forever, or those who have just discovered the celebration for the first time.
The majestic, picturesque floats. The smell of fajitas, chicken on a stick and gorditas radiating from the food booths. The sounds of live music bouncing off the downtown walls. And the Fiesta medals, all those medals chanting “clank, clank, clank” in unison — a sure head-turner.
Looking back at vintage photos of Fiesta from the 1930s-early 1980s, it seems like that excitement has remained timeless.
Besides the fashion and the absence of skyscrapers, the scenes look almost similar to what a reveler would see today: photos show parades drawing large crowds, socialites gathering at intimate parties and the carnival acting as among the go-to destinations.
But some things that happened back then probably wouldn’t fly today.
Images taken by the Light in 1937 show people pouring out of windows of downtown buildings, even sitting on ledges and cornices for a chance to see the parade.
And in 1941, King Antonio King Antonio XXIII George E. Friedrich’s horse had its own float on the river parade. The “snow-white steed preceded the royal ruler on another float,” the caption stated.
According to the Texas Cavaliers, that was the first year the river parade took place.
“The first Texas Cavaliers River Parade included a number of boats for schools, local businesses, civic organizations and the Army,” its website states. “Texas Cavaliers and the parade sponsors decorated every float with bright flowers and vibrant colors, and the tradition of the River Parade began.”
Up until last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fiesta had been held every year except in 1918 during World War I and from 1942-1945 during World War II, according to the Fiesta Commission.
The tradition started in 1981 with the first Battle of Flowers Parade, which was created by a group that wanted to honor the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto.
While this year’s party was pushed to June without the Battle of Flowers Parade, Flambeau Parade and King William Fair, among some other key events, the atmosphere of the “Party with a Purpose” still lives. Click here to see all the events that are still in store for Fiesta, which ends on Sunday.
Scroll down to see more images of Fiesta through the years, in black and white.