Cascarón Confusion? Your Guide to All Things Fiesta

The biggest party of the year is here and even native San Antonians need a refresher when it comes to Fiesta must-haves and must-dos. Aside from urging you to hydrate, stock up on sunscreen and cash, here’s a quick explainer on what you should know about San Antonio’s largest celebration which runs from April 20-30.

The earliest version of medals came by way of King Antonio in 1946, when the faux-royal handed out commemorative coins, according to Henry Graham’s “History of the Texas Cavaliers.” Fast-forward to 2017 and medals are one oFiesta’s hottest items. Made by non-profits to help fundraise, companies to get the word out, or locals trying to one-up each other’s designs, nabbing medals has grown into a mania led by the Fiesta Medal Maniacs which, command the attention of more than 12,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram. This year’s most sought-after trinket? A loteria-inspired Donald Trump medal that’s helping keep Fiesta great. Check out our video with the Maniacs below:

Though origins are murky, cascarones are a staple during Fiesta traditions. Buy them from your local H-E-B, roadside stands or Fiesta on Main. Finesse is mandatory: Crack them in your hand and sprinkle the confetti guts over your victim’s head. We’re still civilized, even if it’s Fiesta.

The Three Kings
Although not quite as wondrous as the Three Wise Men, the three kings of Fiesta still come bearing gifts each year in the form of charitable contributions to local nonprofits. Established by the Texas Cavaliers in 1927, King Antonio is tasked with raising funds for children’s charities before appearing at schools, military bases, hospitals and events throughout Fiesta. Initiated by LULAC in 1947 with a goal of raising scholarship funds for underprivileged youth, El Rey Feo officially joined Fiesta in 1980 and serves as “The People’s King,” similarly going beyond parades and parties to visit nursing homes, schools and hospitals. Since his first appearance at Cornyation’s debut (1951’s Court of the Cracked Salad Bowl), King Anchovy has evolved into a key Fiesta figure who rules over a riotous court during three nights of costumed satire benefiting local AIDS charities and theater arts scholarships.

Coronation Gowns
Since 1909, The Order of the Alamo has crowned its own Fiesta royalty at Coronation — a glitzy affair showcasing a Queen, Princess and 24 Duchesses donning elaborate dresses and trains encrusted with beads and rhinestones. Often weighing between 60 and 100 pounds and costing $35,000 or more, the royal robes follow specific court themes ranging from birds and flowers to museums and the military. While Coronation seats are admittedly “very limited to the public,” theses showpieces can often be experienced firsthand at The Witte, which recently unveiled “Natural Beauty: Fiesta of Land, Water, and Sky,” an exhibition of gowns inspired by Texas landscapes.

Where to start? If you’re collecting medals, you’ll want to showcase your finds across your chest. Don’t ruin a well-made guayavera — get a sash, available at most Fiesta shops including the official Fiesta Store off Broadway. It gives you plenty of room to store your scores and makes you feel like royalty. Need shade from the ever-present sun that’ll beat down on you come sundown at Taste of New Orleans/NIOSA/Oyster Bake or during the daytime parades? Fashion yourself a hat: the bigger, the better. Head to Amols’ or Michael’s and clear them completely out of their brightest tulle and glitter. Paper flower crowns are also an “it” accessory. Score one from Market Square, El Mercado, or make your own. If the whole extraness that is Fiesta hasn’t quite struck you yet, if you’re not a hat person, if you’d rather show off new kicks than tackle the arduous task of pinning several dozen medals to a vest, show San Antonio your shoes. The tradition directly relates to the Queens and princesses who often wear decked out sneakers, boots or other footwear under their beaded gowns.
Courtesy of Battle of Flowers Parade
At the very center of the 10-day celebration, Fiesta’s parades run the gamut from traditional reverence to whimsical and wacky. If you can only attend one, most would point you toward the Battle of Flowers Parade (April 28), the over-the-top procession that sparked Fiesta itself back in 1891. Produced entirely by women and designed to honor the heroes of the Alamo, the beloved tradition brings together all the hallmarks of Fiesta for a procession through downtown featuring elaborately decorated floats, decked-out royalty, ROTC units, local celebs and marching bands. Fiesta fanatics, however, will tell you to attend as many as possible — including the Texas Cavaliers River Parade (April 24), the wildly illuminated Fiesta Flambeau Parade (April 29), the dog-centric Fiesta Pooch Parade (April 29) and the wonderfully wacky King William Fair Parade (April 29).

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