Fiesta, Fiesta: A Weeklong Party in San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS- Fiesta—that means a big party, right? For the city of San Antonio, it means a big party on a colossal scale. First thrown as a citywide celebration to commemorate the battle of the Alamo, Fiesta is a weeklong party featuring parades, block parties, fundraisers, and a communal atmosphere of celebration and partying.
Over the course of a week, various charitable foundations sponsor fundraisers throughout the city, adorning everything in purple and orange in a festive attempt to liven up the mood and get the city rockin'. It’s really like nothing I’ve ever seen—San Antonio screeches to a halt for seven days while its citizens flit about--attending parties, designing floats, helping to organize various fundraisers, and using the confusion as an excuse to duck out of work early.
One of the most popular events during Fiesta is NIOSA, or Night In Old San Antonio. Think of it as a giant street fair held on the grounds of the city’s “Old Town”, with bars selling tequila, booths hawking BBQ, and bands playing German oompah music. Every section of NIOSA has a different theme to it and offers you the chance to sample unique cuisines from all over the country. Fried fish from N’awleans, burritos from Texas, and the biggest treat of all: grilled corn with butter and a peppery, dry hot sauce on top.
NIOSA is marked by thousands of people milling about in the warm night air, enjoying the evening with friends and casually making new ones. It’s a time to have a few drinks, not worry about what you’re eating, and enjoy your community. Texans like taking life as it comes, and I've seen few places where that attitude is more apparent than NIOSA. The woman at the left, an unknown stranger, was particularly into the NIOSA festivities.
The next morning I found myself roused out of bed early, since I had promised my aunt I would help her and the Lion’s Club set up their section for the morning’s parade and the finale of Fiesta festivities. The Lion’s Club is a charitable organization with chapters all over the country, and here they reserve a large, desirable swath of the parade where they set up chairs. Tickets are then sold for folks to sit in the Lion's Club section and watch the parade, making it one of their bigger fundraisers of the year. For the most part, proceeds or portions of proceeds earned during Fiesta benefit community-oriented organizations. At the very least, Fiesta raises awareness for these groups.
Sitting on the parade route, it is obvious that Fiesta is a big deal. People spend unbelievable amounts of money on large, garish floats that push the limits of human decency. Young women dress up in over-the-top, flashy dresses fit for beauty queens and ride by on floats, waving to the crowd and trying not to mess up their makeup, in a desperate attempt to maintain a posture of perfection. High school marching bands play, horses trot past, and the armed services file past in a lock-step march. This is the only daytime parade, and it’s the one people care about most—San Antonians are out in full force, displaying their colors and…. celebrating.
Fiesta, while quite over the top, is comforting reminder that in the end, people just want to come together as a community and enjoy themselves. It’s a time to flaunt, in a conspicuous way, the wealth that they have as a successful society, and best of all, to enjoy it with each other. It’s a humanizing event, and one in which class lines blur—since everyone is always in the mood for a Fiesta.