Hi, my name is Dawn, and I’m just not into Fiesta.
I heard those collective gasps. There isn’t a support group for people who aren’t into Fiesta? No “Fiesta Ambivalence Anonymous,” otherwise known as “I Live in San Antonio, But I Don’t Do Fiesta”? I’m willing to be the founding member.
You’re still gasping for breath, aren’t you? I’m sorry to drop such a shock so close to San Antonio’s most beloved party of the year. I know it’s hard to believe that not everyone lives for Fiesta. Really, it’s OK. Please take a deep breath before you pass out.
Fiesta Ambivalence is not easy to discuss. Sufferers tend to hide their affliction out of shame. Best disguised under medals and cascarones, the affliction is usually kept hidden from even your closest friends as you string papel picado throughout your house and wear only the brightest colors in your closet for what seems like most of April each year. It’s really just 11 days, but when you’re not that into it and have to work to hide your ambivalence, it seems like forever. You see, Fiesta is sacred in San Antonio, and those of us who don’t “get” it tend to be in the line of fire if we mention that in any public, or even private, setting.
I’m totally cool with Fiesta and have no problem at all with everyone having a great time and burying themselves under sashes, vests, hats, and shirts festooned in Fiesta medals. I think it’s great that the entire city seems to put serious stuff on pause to have fun and celebrate—wait, what is it that Fiesta celebrates again?! (We’ll get to that in a minute, by the way.) Hence my frequent echoing of “¡Viva Fiesta!”: when attempting to survive in a foreign land, always mimic the natives!
I’m originally from New Orleans, so partying is in my blood. My son’s first birthday was celebrated at Mardi Gras. The mere mention of a parade puts me in a good mood, ready to have a great time with family and friends. Thanks to the military, I’ve lived around the country and the world and never have a problem jumping into local customs. Cutting ties from men’s necks during Fasching in Germany? Hand me some scissors! Celebrating St. Nicholas Day with angels and devils in Prague? Bring it on! Masks and costumes during Carnival in Venice? Sweet!
My lackadaisical attitude toward Fiesta befuddles even me. We’ve lived here for almost eight years and have a San Antonio-born child who thinks cascarones should be incorporated into EVERY holiday. (Admit it: the thought of smashing eggs on heads puts a whole new spin on family tensions at Christmas or disappointing Valentine’s Days, doesn’t it?) So why haven’t I embraced San Antonio’s ultimate party?
Each year, I think we’ll check out something Fiesta-related. We’ve gone to one Fiesta event. Once. And it just wasn’t for me. Was that another gasp?? I know, I know. I’ve heard it all before.
From the outside looking in: there’s no end to the number of Fiesta events. You name your celebration poison of choice and Fiesta seems to offer it: parades, royalty, festivals, food, food, and more food, beverages, costumes, fun, music, dancing, friends, family, and oh yes, cascarones. There’s Fiesta events for kids. And dogs. There’s one that celebrates New Orleans—really, you’d think I could get into that one!—and one that’s all about oysters, one of my favorite seafood delights. The Fiesta parades are even shown on TV, a la the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. And there’s a focus on showing people your shoes, but that’s another story. Whole neighborhoods are united in celebration, and the city itself seems to take on a different air.
But—you knew there had to be a “but,” right?—Fiesta is overwhelming to figure out. There’s a commission who officially sanctions events, but each event is hosted by a different organization. Tickets are needed for some events but not for others, and some tickets are nearly impossible to come by. Parking at said impossible-to-get-into-events is like an Olympic sport: attempted by only the best of the best. (I’m guessing Uber will make a killing on Fiesta-goers this year!)
Once you get into some events, the crowds can be overwhelming. You stand in forever lines to get the coveted food, food, and more food mentioned above. Same with the beverages. It’s all in the name of charity, but each event benefits a different cause, and oh yeah, then there are the medals, which also usually benefit a cause. EVERYONE seems to have their own medal. I know I’m not cool because I don’t give out my own custom medals. And I don’t have a fancy Fiesta sash, vest, hat, or whatever upon which to display all of the ultra-cool medals I don’t have.
I think the combination of all of the above has left me swimming in a pool of Fiesta confusion. I truly don’t have an answer for my affliction, but by outing myself here, I know that many of my San Antonio friends will shake their heads in pity as they whisper, “Well, bless her heart. I always knew there was something wrong, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. You just never know who is hiding something, you know?”
Perhaps Fiesta is one of those things that you don’t “get” until you get it. Perhaps I need to find a true, native local who can take me under their wing and show me the ways of the Fiesta “force.” Or perhaps I just need to battle my ambivalence head on, jump into the fray, and don’t look back. After all, everyone looks good with confetti in their hair, food and beverages make everything fun, and how can you question an event that gives you a day off of work/school AND encourages you to wear cute shoes??? That seems like something everyone should embrace, right?
Whether you’re into Fiesta or not, this year is the 125th anniversary of Fiesta. There’s quite a history behind the parties and celebrations. Some of the best known events and organizations behind them are detailed by the Fiesta Commission here. And of course, ACMB has compiled a list of family-friendly Fiesta events, but you can also download a full schedule of all official Fiesta events courtesy of the Fiesta Commission, or check out this year’s Fiesta Magazine for details about this year’s events, a full schedule, Fiesta history, and more.
So, Fiesta fans: tell me what you love about Fiesta. I’m all ears. What are the must-do events? Where do you find the coolest Fiesta attire and décor? What makes Fiesta your favorite time of year? What food must I eat while wearing which amazing medals? What will make me go from ambivalent to an over-the-top Fiesta fiend?
Or, if you’re a kindred ambivalent soul wondering when I’m hosting the first meeting of Fiesta Ambivalence Anonymous, tell me what stymies you about San Antonio’s favorite time of year. What don’t you like about it, or what makes you hesitant to enjoy the party? Seriously—I can’t create a support group without a group, so don’t be afraid to out yourself. There’s safety in numbers! And who knows? Maybe there’s enough of us to create our own medal!
In the meantime, ¡Viva Fiesta!