Battle of Flowers Parade
With Fiesta taking place, throughout this week we’ll be highlighting some treasures from our collections related to this San Antonio celebration. The DRT Library has many books, vertical files, photographs, and archival materials that document and explore the history of Fiesta and the Battle of Flowers Parade from their inception to the present day.
Chief among our archival collections is the Battle of Flowers Association Records, which contains the non-current records of the organization deemed to possess enduring historic value. This collection is one of the largest held by the library and contains minutes, rosters, yearbooks, reports, correspondence, financial documents, printed material, drawings, photographs, motion picture film, videotape, audio tape, and artifacts generated and gathered by elected officials and various committee chairmen in the Association. Researchers can find additional archival materials relating to the Battle of Flowers Parade and Fiesta in several other collections, including the Reynolds Andricks Fiesta Scrapbooks and Photographs, 1935-1977; DRT 3 Fiesta San Antonio Collection, 1897-2007; and the Order of the Alamo Records, 1909-1990.
For this entry, we’re focusing on materials from the early history of the Battle of Flowers Parade. The first parade was held in 1891 due to the convergence of several factors, namely the desire of some San Antonians to replicate the flower festivals they had observed in Mexico City and in Nice, France; the movement in the city to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21; and the interest in marking the two hundredth anniversary of the naming of San Antonio by Spanish explorers. According to historian Judith Berg Sobré, “in spite of these vague plans, however, no concrete arrangements were made until the announcement of the impending visit of President Benjamin Harrison.” This first “visit to San Antonio by a sitting U.S. chief executive…galvanized the flower-battle enthusiasts to organize their own procession” (155-157).
The parade organizers – largely a group of well-to-do women who were active community volunteers – decided that the event would begin at 5:00 pm on April 20, not April 21, in honor of the president’s visit. This “would be long after the president’s departure,” writes Sobré, “but his schedule was too tight at any rate to permit him to witness such an entertainment.” Despite his absence, “the planners were counting on many visitors flocking to San Antonio that day and staying around to shop, so that the parade would have a large audience when the stores closed” (157). Furthermore, the planners decided that the parade would “form just off Alamo Plaza, pass through the plaza to Commerce Street, circle Main Plaza, and then return to Alamo Plaza. There, the [parade] marshals would divide the carriages into two columns, which would circle the plaza in opposite directions so that their occupants could throw flowers at each other” (158-159). The first parade was postponed due to rain and took place on April 24.
While initially the Battle of Flowers Parade was unique in that no larger festival occurred in conjunction with it, within a couple of years this changed as local organizations began hosting events associated with the event. Today, the Battle of Flowers Parade is the largest parade in Fiesta and is second only to the Tournament of Roses parade as the largest parade in the country. Additionally, the Battle of Flowers Association has been exclusively female group for most of its history, and the parade is the only parade in the country that is planned and directed completely by women.
References and Further Reading
Judith Berg Sobré, “Battle of Flowers Parade: ‘Fun with Flora,’” in San Antonio on Parade: Six Historic Festivals, by Judith Berg Sobre (2003).