Learn about the History of the Battle of Flowers

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When you visit San Antonio, Texas, in April, then you should not definitely miss the Fiesta San Antonio.

Fiesta San Antonio (literally, “Saint Anthony’s feast”) is a ten-day festival held in San Antonio, Texas. The festival is the city’s signature event and is held every April. It honors the heroic spirit of the patriots during the Battle of Alamo, which happened in San Antonio, and celebrates the victory in the Battle of San Jacinto. Both battles took place in 1836.

Fiesta San Antonio, or “Battle of Flowers” as popularly called, is one of the top annual events in the United States. In fact, it is the second-largest day parade in the country. With seemingly endless lines of colorful parade floats that pass in front of the Alamo, along with lively reveling, this popular festival attracts over 300,000 people each spring.

Origins and history of Fiesta San Antonio, aka the “Battle of Flowers”

You’ve got to give credit to the women who started it all. The first Battle of Flowers parade took place on April 21, 1891, when a group of upper-class local women began to deck their bicycles, horse-drawn carriages, and baby buggies with fresh flowers. Then the ladies rode them in front of the Alamo and tossed cherry flowers at each other. We can best describe it as a five-”F” affair – a friendly, fun-filled, floral “fire,” that is. Thus, this incident inspired the moniker “Battle of Flowers.” 

Then the ladies got down to more serious business by organizing a parade to honor those who fought and died at the Battle of Alamo and celebrate the victory at the Battle of San Jacinto.

In one story, it was a prominent San Antonio local named Ellen Maury Slayden, wife of Congressman James L. Slayden, who came up with the idea for the floral parade. The idea was also partly inspired by a similar floral parade that she saw during her visit to Spain.

Mrs. Slayden discussed the floral parade idea with several local ladies in San Antonio, resulting in the establishment of the Battle of Flowers Committee. Then the committee shared its plans with the other San Antonians, who supported the idea of a floral parade.

In another account, it was the president of the Texas National Bank, J.S. Alexander, who came up with the idea of a flower parade. Alexander witnessed a festive event while on vacation in Europe, which consisted of a floral parade and women engaging in a “battle” using flowers. Of course, it was the basis of the ensuing festival established back home.

Whatever version of the story you may want to follow, the festival pushed through. The Battle of Flowers Committee began crowning a Carnival Queen in 1895. Since then, coronations of local queens and princesses have been regular events of this San Antonio tradition.

Over the years since the “Battle of Flowers” was established, it has changed its name a few times. From “Carnival” to “Spring Carnival” to “Fiesta San Jacinto,” city folks have been using “Fiesta San Antonio” since 1960.

Since it was founded, the Battle of Flowers has been held each year, except for the two World Wars and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

floral parade float in San Antonio

Fiesta Flambeau

The parade, called Fiesta Flambeau, is the pioneering event and of the Battle of Flowers. It typically occurs on the second Friday of the festival, making it the highlight and the near-finale of the ten-day festival.

Fiesta Flambeau is organized by women, making it the only festival event in the US whose organizers and volunteers consist entirely of women.  The parades carry specific themes every year, such as the “classic novels” theme and the “M*A*S*H” theme.

The route of this glitzy parade begins at the University of Texas-San Antonio and then covers for the next 2.6 miles. Fiesta Flambeau attracts a crowd of more than 350,000 spectators and a television audience of more than 1.5 million. The illuminated parade floats seem to vie against each other on who among them has the most elaborate, flashy, and spectacular displays. 

Of course, the parades are not complete without a squadron of marching bands, dance groups, equestrian units, plus local and international musicians and entertainers who take part in this joyous and spectacular extravaganza.

If you want to be a part of the next Battle of Flowers festival, check out for updates on its website: https://fiestasanantonio.org/.

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