True Confessions: Fiesta Isn’t My Thing

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”? Well, I’m more than 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.

Alamo City Moms Blog "Fiesta Madre" shirt--cute, colorful, creative and the perfect attire to help blend into the Fiesta landscape.
A “Fiesta Madre” shirt–cute, colorful, creative and the perfect attire to help blend into the Fiesta landscape. A must to disguise Fiesta Ambivalence!

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 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?

Another must for Fiesta: cascarones and confetti that you'll be cleaning up for months. By the way, wet confetti leaves stains, so always brush it out before showering or you'll end up with pink spots on your scalp. I won't tell you how I know that.
Another must for Fiesta: cascarones and confetti that you’ll be cleaning up for months. (By the way, wet confetti leaves stains, so always brush it out before showering or you’ll end up with pink spots on your scalp. I won’t tell you how I know that.)

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.

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.

a medal inside a broken egg with confettiI 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?

Fiesta pic hiding face
Even my son is ashamed of my Fiesta Ambivalence–here he is hiding his face at a Fiesta event.

Whether you’re into Fiesta or not, 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, ACM 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.

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!

confetti and broken eggs on the ground

An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her growing up way too fast native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn runs Tale to Tell Communications, a San Antonio-based PR and marketing agency. An award-winning writer, Dawn also contributes to San Antonio Woman, Rio Magazine and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She and her family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: The beauty of the River Walk, especially La Villita Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Celebrating anything and everything with color, music and food


  1. Born and raised in San Antonio, and I myself don’t enjoy Fiesta. While in high school (and once a few years after) I walked in the day parade, been to Oyster Bake and NIOSA, and La Semana when that was around. Been to Market Square just for Fiesta food, but it’s not really my cup of tea. Personally I don’t like to drink in excess and if i wanted to, probably couldn’t afford it with the prices the adult beverages are. And i certainly don’t like being around other people who have already drank way too much. And the food prices. It’s just all too much for me to enjoy.

    • Thanks for weighing in! You’re definitely not alone as a native who isn’t into it even though you’ve experienced the events first-hand. Here’s to enjoying the city without the frenzy!

  2. I’m a Mardi Gras loving Mobile, AL native. We’ve done Fasching, Carnival, & Oktoberfest. And I was so looking forward to Fiesta when we moved here. But it’s overwhelming! Tickets to watch a parade? I just don’t get that. And the parking situation is a big turnoff today. I passed people parking & walking from UIW just for the parade today.

    • Love that you’ve experienced so many other festivals/celebrations! Sounds like our issues with Fiesta are very similar–overwhelming seems to be the best word for it. Glad so many Alamo City folks love Fiesta. And I’m equally glad that there are so many people who understand my ambivalence. We spent the day at the park yesterday. Parade, what parade?!?

  3. You are not alone! We have lived here for 5 years. (I’m an Army Brat, too–done the Fasching thing as well). I’m not a real fan of Fiesta. I want to be–but the crowds are just a huge turn off. We went to our first ever Fiesta event last night–Battle of the Bands. Enjoyed it but left early to beat traffic and getting there was a nightmare. I’d rather spend my day hiking in a state park! 🙂

    • Welcome to F.A.A.! We spent our day in the park with friends yesterday, far away from crowds, parking problems and parades. I know my son would love to see the parade and it’s a tradition for so many families. It’s just not our tradition. I’ve heard Battle of the Bands is terrific. Glad you put a toe in the Fiesta water and lived to tell the tale!

  4. Thank you, Dawn, for such a poignant commentary. I completely relate to your feelings about the whole Fiesta celebration. First, because it has become an excuse to get drunk and act crazy and not a celebration of Texas’ history. Second, celebrating Fiesta quickly became a problem when I started seeing my students at all the events. While I firmly believe teachers should not be expected to avoid any fun, the reality is that teachers are extremely vulnerable in these situations. It takes only one student with a camera phone to post you online for all the world to see. Now that I have young children again, I may find myself at a low-key event like the King William Fair. I haven’t been in years. I hope it hasn’t changed…

    • Social media and camera phones have certainly made am impact, haven’t they? I often say I’m glad they weren’t around when I was in school. I see your perspective/concern as a teacher, too–you are allowed to be human, celebrate, etc., but the wrong thing taken out of context could be very misconstrued. It’s also a shame that more people don’t understand the history behind Fiesta. It was one of the things I didn’t understand when we moved here and I think it really does help set it apart of so many other parties/festivals/events around the country. If the weather improves, I hope you’re able to get out with your littles and enjoy spring–either at a Fiesta event or just out and about in SA!

  5. I’ve lived here all my life, and my birthday is during Fiesta week, so it feels like everything is celebrating with me, lol. I love the energy of the time of year (plus the Spurs are usually in the playoffs) but I don’t go to many events. King William Fair used to be fun but now it is CRAZY packed. Last year we went to the Flambeau because my son works at the paper and we were able to park in the lot. I had fun, but they didn’t. I’m going to TRY to go to NIOSA this year, since I haven’t been in 30 years. My friends love to go to the Market, not as crazy, they claim. I think trying one thing a year is fun.

    • Happy Birthday! And thanks for all of the event tips. The weather doesn’t seem to be cooperating so far, so we’ll see if NIOSA’s rain rock helps keep it dry for this week. Hope you have fun celebrating your big day!

  6. I’ve been in SA about 8 yrs also a Louisiana native and have yet to embrace Fiesta… sign me up… please please. So glad to know I’m not alone. Just shared this with my sister who just recently moved here and asked me about Fiesta.

    • Welcome!! Sounds like we’ve got our founding members of F.A.A.!! I really had no idea how many of us were lingering in the shadows, but Viva Ambivalence–and may those who enjoy Fiesta have a good time for the next 9 days.

  7. I’ve lived in San Antonio for over 20 years and I’m in a slightly different position. It’s not that I have never gotten into Fiesta. Instead, I am over Fiesta. As mentioned, everything is so crowded, parking is ridiculous, and I got tired of having beer spilled on me almost constantly. I attended St. Mary’s for law school but haven’t been to Oyster Bake since I graduated. The only Fiesta event I truly miss is Cornyation which has become so popular, it’s practically impossible to get tickets (and is definitely not appropriate for the kids!).

    • Thanks for weighing in. It’s so interesting to hear everyone’s take on an event that seems to dominate our city’s mindset for a few weeks. I hear Cornyation is a riot–and definitely not G rated! I’d love to check out Oyster Bake, but the thought of 100,000 people is mindboggling. I hope everyone who goes to events has a wonderful, safe time. We’ll see if manage to check anything out this year.

  8. Native to San Antonio we avoid Fiesta at all cost & we don’t feel bad about it either. It gets too crowded, long lines everywhere, intoxicated people tend to get disrespectful. The environment all around isn’t a good one for us much less our children to be around. So we avoid it all together.

    • I’ve heard those same thoughts from many people today, so I now know I’m not as alone as I thought! Have a great weekend doing non-Fiesta fun with your kids!

  9. We love the Fiesta Arts Fair and try to get there right when it starts because it gets crowded. The kids love to do the art an the grounds are beautiful and shaded and it’s pretty low key in comparison to other events! I also go to the 10th St. River Festival at the VFW. It’s right on the Museum Reach of the River Walk and has great bands and you can chill on the patio and watch the people stroll by! I like laid back non crowds too!

    • Thanks!!! Fiesta Arts Fair is one event everyone seems to rave about it. We might brave it this year if the weather holds out. I’m afraid Mother Nature might not be in the Fiesta mood this year!

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