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PHOTOS: San Antonio Regains Its Vibrancy As Fiesta Returns

Night In Old San Antonio attracts guests
Texas Public Radio
Night In Old San Antonio attracts guests

Fiesta 2020 was rescheduled, postponed and canceled. More than a year and a half later, San Antonians were finally able to don their halos, break out the cascarones and line their chairs along the River Walk for a week of colorful celebration this June.

A Fiesta in June is significant for several reasons: It's a lot hotter than usual. It also coincided with Juneteenth, Pride Month and Father's Day for the first time.

And, though several traditional Fiesta events were canceled this year —including the Battle of the Flowers Parade, King William Fair and the Oyster Bake — there was one perk this year that you won’t find in a normal Fiesta year: COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

Texas Cavaliers Parade

Tens of thousands enjoyed the Texas Cavaliers Fiesta Parade on Monday, which was a coming out party for many after having been shut away for so long.

It was sweltering 92 degrees at the River Walk as people found their seats and awaited the parade to start.

The 40 percent chance of rain held off to the very end of the parade, and then light rains cooled things off.

Ford Mariachi Festival

The Ford Mariachi barges floated down the San Antonio River with celebratory music and excitement for Fiesta.

Passers-by took videos on their phones, capturing the embroidered, colorful gowns swaying and the sounds of the tapping of the shoes from the ladies on the barges.

The musicians aboard yelled out "Viva Fiesta," threw beaded necklaces to onlookers and waved as those watching clapped and cheered. The Mariachi delighted the people on the River Walk with their vibrant music, which could still be heard long after they passed by.

A Night In Old San Antonio

Attendees of the annual event noted one major difference this year: No physical coupons. In years past, you'd walk up to a kiosk and exchange cash or credit for paper tickets. The new system, BlastPass, is a cashless form of payment — a wristband that food and drink vendors can scan.

Though the risk of loosing physical coupons is gone, some at NIOSA found the method a bit time-consuming, since long lines formed at some of the refill stations.

You can buy a BlastPass online before you head to La Villita, or you can purchase and refill the passes there.

But despite the wait, many attendees were just excited to be back in the Fiesta groove after nearly two and a half years without the celebration.

While Fiesta is a time for music, partying and having a good time, that also means that a lot of Fiesta-goers have likely had a few drinks. But that doesn’t necessarily disqualify them from getting the vaccine at one of the Fiesta pop-up clinics.

Ray Tamez said the energy slowly amped up as more people arrived and filled their wristbands. Tamez performed with Passing Strangers, one of the live bands at the event

"So glad to be back. You know, just having that connection, looking at seeing people energized, getting energy back from them," he said. "And as the night went on, everybody just got more and more excited."

All proceeds for the event fund the San Antonio Conservation Society.

A Day In Old Mexico & Charreada

Fiesta 2021 concluded with an old tradition celebrating Mexican Horsemanship. The charreada — Mexico's official sport predating and inspiring the American Rodeo — also featured live mariachi music, food vendors, and ballet folklorico performances.

The Asociación de Charros de San Antonio is the oldest and largest Charro association in the US.

Tasty Treats

There's no Fiesta without chicken on a stick, elote and turkey legs. Find a preparada or a margarita to wash 'em down, and you're golden.

Here's a full list of Fiesta 2021 events:

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon
Jia Chen is a freelance journalist and photographer for Texas Public Radio. She began with TPR working as the Bexar County selected Summer Arts Intern in 2021. Her coverage includes arts & culture, technology, politics, and more. She holds a BA in Communication from University of Texas at San Antonio and has lived in San Antonio for over 20 years.
Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii