© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

A Guide: How to VIVA FIESTA across San Antonio without losing your chanclas

©Betsy Newman Photography
Courtesy of Fiesta® San Antonio Commission

San Antonio’s celebration of culture, music, charities and chicken-on-a-stick is making its long-awaited comeback. It’s the first time the 11-day celebration will be held in its entirety since 2019 due to the pandemic.

Which events are the right ones for you? If you said “all of them,” let’s party. But I get it, Fiesta can be overwhelming, it’s impossible to do it all because there are literally 110 events.

Fiesta begins Thursday, March 31 with its kickoff event “Fiesta Fiesta” in Hemisfair. Nearly all of the traditional events will be back in full swing after 2020’s Fiesta events were first postponed and then canceled. The next year, in 2021, had a modified Fiesta in the summer instead of April.

“This city is about to erupt like a family reunion that we haven’t had in a very long time and that’s the part that I’m most looking forward to is seeing everybody’s smiles and coming back together again,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during a council meeting earlier this month “It is something that I think we all deserve, especially those who have been working so hard on the front lines of virtually every sector of this community to get it to where we can celebrate again.”

Fiesta events are run by individual non-profits that use the money earned from those events to fund necessary programs. But the entire series is organized by the Fiesta Commission.

While it’s not a complete list, here’s a few of this year’s events; we’ve divided them up a little bit:

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
TPR News

“Fiesta Fiesta” is the event that starts it all. It’s where the hair is let down, cascarones are cracked, and an ugly tie or two gets cut in half. It’s free and is taking over Hemisfair. This is also the place to beef up your Fiesta medal collection at Pin Pandemonium.

  • Fiesta Fiesta - Thursday, March 31. 4:00PM - 10:00 PM - Hemisfair - Fireworks: 9:50 PM

Don’t bring a cloud to rain on my (half dozen) parades

There’s no better way to show off your San Antonio pride than sitting in a foldable chair that you chained to a light pole last week to claim your spot and then yelling at a Fiesta royal on a parade float to show you their shoes (it’s a thing.)

The parades are the core of Fiesta. They’re so big that the Friday parade for the Battle of Flowers is an official city holiday even for school districts. The Battle of Flowers is the original event that started Fiesta in the 1890s

The Saturday night illuminated parade — the Fiesta Flambeau — has enough lights to overwhelm the Texas power grid and also put Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade to shame.

The Cavaliers, Battle of Flowers, and Flambeau all have tickets that can be purchased at their website. The Battle of Flowers and Flambeau do not run along Broadway this year and have new parade routes that begin on Main Avenue.

 A group of Fiesta royalty smiles on a barge at the Texas Cavalier River Parade. | Jiawen Chen, Texas Public Radio
Jiawen Chen / Texas Public Radio
A group of Fiesta royalty smiles on a barge at the Texas Cavalier River Parade.

Kings, queens and royal clout

Fiesta has more royalty than a deck of cards. There’s King Antonio; El Rey Feo, El Rey Fido, Miss Fiesta, Queen of the Order of the Alamo, Charro Queen, the Queen of Soul. The list goes on. Most will have their ceremonial coronations during the first few days of Fiesta.

Chicken-on-a-stick is a popular food item at Fiesta. |  Kathleen Creedon, Texas Public Radio
Kathleen Creedon
Texas Public Radio
Chicken-on-a-stick is a popular food item at Fiesta.

Food, festivals and frenzies

Fiesta’s holy trinity of gastronomy includes gorditas; corn, that is either in a cup or roasted; and chicken-on-a-stick (if it doesn’t have a jalapeno at the top of the stick, you’re doing it wrong.)

There's plenty more food options than those, of course. If you find yourself hungry at a Fiesta event, that’s your own fault, guey, If you love food booths, music, and unexpectedly running into everyone you’ve ever met, check these out:

 Elsa Garrett is the chair of one of the cascarón booths at NIOSA. | Kathleen Creedon, Texas Public Radio
Kathleen Creedon
Texas Public Radio
Elsa Garrett is the chair of one of the cascarón booths at NIOSA.

Songs, dance and culture:

A sweet serenade from the band festivals and cultural concerts will get you amped up.

 The Charreada is held on the last day of Fiesta 2021.
Jiawen Chen
The Charreada is held on the last day of Fiesta 2021.

Run off those gorditas

There are multiple fitness events to help you shred the “Fiesta 15” which is the number of pounds you gain by the time Fiesta is over.

Fiesta Pride

San Antonio’s LGBTQ+ community unites behind multiple Fiesta gatherings for a gay old time. Some of these are the most outrageous and outlandish of the entire schedule of events.

For instance: If you like drama and drag queens, Fiesta Cornyation will send you on a whirlwind of salacious, scandalous satire that takes the politically preposterous through the wringer by means of cathartic caricatures. It’s a stage production at its core with a cavalcade of whimsically witty skits produced by volunteer designers.

A mariachi performs on the San Antonio River during Fiesta. | Kathleen Creedon, Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Kathleen Creedon

Military City, USA

We wouldn’t be “Military City, USA” if there weren’t Fiesta events honoring the military,

Pups, pooches and four-legged friends!

Animal fans have their pick of events including El Rey Fido which raises money for the San Antonio Humane Society and then there’s also the Alamo Heights Pooch Parade listed above.

Everything Else:
Since we couldn’t list everything, the official Fiesta schedule is right here.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.