History

The city of San Antonio owes its annual Fiesta to a small group of passionate, dedicated women who started it all with the first Battle of Flowers® Parade in 1891. What began as a patriotic celebration to honor the heroes of the Alamo, Goliad and the Battle of San Jacinto has since evolved into one of the oldest and largest parades in the country. Today, The Battle of the Flowers® Association – the only all-women, all-volunteer organization producing events of its kind – continues to present the Battle of Flowers® Parade as an integral part of the citywide celebration.

The Battle of Flowers® Association is a civic non-profit organization, whose objective is to teach the history of our state and keep the patriotic traditions of Texas and San Antonio alive. There are 400 active members and many honorary members who volunteer their time to give back to the city and community.

The Battle of Flowers® Association

Click here to view our 2018-2019 Battle of Flowers® Association Board of Directors.

Click here to view our Battle of Flowers® Association former Presidents.

History Timeline

With a history that spans over 100 years, there have been many celebratory moments and milestones of amazing work. We welcome you to walk through these memories with us in the timeline below.

1891
Early 1891 – The Beginning
Early 1891 – The Beginning

Inspired by the flower parades of Spain, Mrs. James L. Slayden, our Congressman’s wife, suggested that San Antonio stage its own fete April 21st, in memory of the fallen heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto. With the help of Mr. J.S. Alexander, the idea gained the support of the prominent all-male San Antonio Club, and The Battle of Flowers Association was born. Mrs. H. D. Kampmann was immediately elected its first Chairman.


1891
April 24, 1891 – The First of Many

Ever unpredictable, a bout of inclement Texas weather delayed the inaugural Battle of Flowers® Parade three days. Nonetheless, the event proved a vivid success and earned an encore the following year and a great many after.


1901
1901 – Debut of the Horseless Carriage

The 10th birthday of The Battle of Flowers® Parade was celebrated, and the Express reported that this was the first Parade to include a horseless vehicle.


1913 - 1914
1913 - 1914 – The Association Becomes Official

The organization received a charter and seal from Austin, and membership cards were issued for the first time. Now the name was “The Battle of Flowers® Association”, with an active membership limited to 400.


1915 - 1916
1915 - 1916 – The “Dens”

The Parade had grown so large; the floats could no longer be decorated with fresh flowers. Mr. Ayres, a benefactor of the organization, helped it acquire an old building at 420 Oak Street that came to be known as the “Dens”. Event organizers would meet here to adorn the many floats with striking artificial flowers.


1918
1918 – The Year of No Parade

It was the final year of World War I, and the ladies of the Battle of Flowers® Association busied themselves with patriotic pursuits rather than festivities. There was no thought of a parade in 1918, but on Sunday, April 21st, thousands made a solemn pilgrimage to the Alamo.


1926
1926 – The Oratorical Contest Takes the Stage

President Mrs. Alfred Ward founded the Oratorical Contest, whereby three prizes would be offered to students who would write the best essays based on some phase of Texas History. The winning declamation was and continues to be used as a part of the annual luncheon program.


1933
1933 – Seated at Alamo Plaza

San Antonio’s population increase and the appeal of the week’s festivities made it necessary to provide crowd seating. Mrs. Walker was the first Association leader to successfully obtain exclusive rights to build grandstands on Alamo Plaza.


1935 - 1936
1935 - 1936 – The Band Festival, Here to Stay!

Under Mrs. Lee Palfrey’s term as president, The Band Festival was made a definite part of the week’s program. Its first performance took place on the morning of the Parade.


1940
1940 – Horsepower without the Horses

The 1940 Parade was the first one in the history of the Battle of Flowers® Parades without any horses, in other words, without any horse-drawn floats.


1941
1941 – The 50th Anniversary

Mrs. Frank Gillespie presided as president over the celebration’s 50th year. More than 1,000 joined in the fun of the Children’s Fete, while every production from the Band Festival to the annual luncheon was celebrated with even more pomp and circumstance than usual.


1943 - 1945
1943 - 1945 – The War Felt at Home

At the 1943 annual luncheon, the decision was made to suspend dues and freeze membership until World War II had come to a close. However, the celebrations would continue so as to entertain the increasing number of servicemen stationed in San Antonio.


1948
1948 – New Milestones for the Celebration

Thirty-seven bands competed in the Band Festival in Alamo Stadium, and the largest crowd to date viewed the parade on Friday in 1948. Added to the week’s program was an Illuminated Night Parade in which the Battle of Flowers® President rode in an official car.


1954
1954 – The Children’s Fete Finale & Aggie Honorees

“Sleeping Beauty”, the last Children’s Fete staged by The Battle of Flowers® Association. It proved an outstanding performance under Chairman Mrs. A.C. Dobbs. This same year marked the 100 year establishment of Texas public schools. To celebrate, the Aggie Band led the official band section in the parade and put on a special 200-piece, first-time Battle of Flowers performance!


1955
1955 – A Pageant Premier

The “Thunder and Glory” Pageant replaced the Children’s Fete under the chairmanship of Mrs. William Thornton.


1956
1956 – The Grand Marshal Governor

President Mrs. Richard Walker enthusiastically secured Texas state governor, Allan Shivers, as the Grand Marshal of the Parade. Also this year, the Band Festival featured, for the first time ever, the U.S. Army Drum and Bugle Corps from Washington, D.C.


1960
1960 – A New Home for the “Den”

When expressway expansions threatened to overtake the land used on which the parade float “Den” sat, President Mrs. William H. Spice, a woman of action, appointed a committee led by Mrs. H.J. von Rosenberg to find a solution. Soon, the ladies purchased the land of the former John J. Pershing School for the new “Den”.


1960
1960 – The Ladies Welcome Fiesta

Year by year, there had been an increasing discontent in the week’s celebration, due to the undemocratic procedures of a few. In 1960, majority representatives made an appeal to the outside. The Chamber of Commerce stepped in and chartered the Fiesta San Antonio Commission to coordinate the activities of the annual Fiesta Week celebration.


1961 - 1962
1961 - 1962 – The “Den” Completes

The new “Den” was a one story, 10,000 square foot, concrete block, steel beam structure specifically designed for building floats. Dedication ceremonies for the building were held in June 1961, and offices, workrooms and storage space completed in 1962.


1964
1964 – The Year of Many Accolades

The year 1964 was quite a year for the Battle of Flowers®! First, the Conservation Society awarded the Association for “The Preservation of That Which is Admirably Distinctive of History”; then, the 50-year organization charter was renewed to a perpetual charter; and finally, the Council of International Relations for “Outstanding Interest in the Field of National Friendship” awarded honorary membership to Battle of Flowers® then-president, Mrs. Claude Witherspoon, Jr.


1973
1973 – The Parade Continues to Blossom

The parade debuted two new sections: a Commercial Section limited to six floats, with an entry fee, and the Official Section, set aside for important persons such as the President of the Battle of Flowers®, Military Coordinator, Mayor, County Judge and Governor. This year, a Pre-Parade box lunch party was also hosted for military commanders, their wives and other dignitaries.


1977
1977 – Great Leaders

This year, the Parade was even more of a couldn’t–miss event than usual. Lady Bird Johnson presided as Grand Marshal and actor Earl Holliman acted as Honorary Grand Marshal. The military brought up the rear of the parade for security reasons, and the televised parade’s start was moved to Grayson and Broadway.


1982
1982 – Recognized for Greatness

Fiesta San Antonio was selected by the American Bar Association as one of the “Top 100 Festivals” in North America.


1988
1988 – The Return of Lady Bird

This year marked Lady Bird Johnson’s second time Grand Marshalling the Parade. This year, the parade theme was “As Time Goes By”.


1991
1991 – The Grand Centennial

To commemorate the 100-year anniversary, the first meeting of the season was held at the Menger Hotel. Former presidents arrived in carriages after circling Alamo Plaza and tossing flowers at each other and at spectators as was done in 1891. Big plans were made for Fiesta Week, and all were a huge community success!


1992
1992 – A Trademarked Affair

The Association decided it would be wise to trademark its name and registered The Battle of Flowers®® as its exclusive trademark and service mark.


1994-1995
1994-1995 – History Finds a Place

The Battle of Flowers® Association’s historical data would no longer be stored in a closet at the “Den”, but rather in the environmentally controlled Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library Archives, at the Alamo. The materials were donated to the DRT Library while noting that, if the group ever relocated, the materials would be returned to the Association.


1997
1997 – Adopting a Common Mission

In 1997, the Long Range Planning Committee drafted a mission statement, “The Battle of Flowers®® Association…celebrating Texas history”, at its February General Meeting. The statement appeared on mailings, press releases and stationary, marking its place as an integral part of the Battle of Flowers® community fabric.


2016
2016 – The Battle of Flowers® 125th Anniversary

The 125th Battle of Flowers® Parade continued the tradition of introducing new ideas. For the first time, both the Grand Marshal, (Rosemary Kowalski), and the Honorary Grand Marshal, (Major General Angie Salinas), were prominent female leaders in our community). This was the first year to feature live broadcasting from the Alamo where the Texas State University Strutters performed as Pre-Parade Entertainment. Additionally, a flyover by two U.S. Air force T-38 planes signaled the start of the Parade at 12:20 p.m. These additions underscored the Parade theme, “Texas Traditions…125 years!” by paying homage to the cultures and pastimes that have been passed down from one generation of Texans to the next.


2018
Battle of Flowers® Parade 2018: “I Remember…”

Celebrating the 300th Anniversary of San Antonio, the 2018 Parade with its earlier start time was led by the Grand Marshal La Familia Cortez. Embracing the nostalgia and the cry “I remember…” La Familia Cortez’s double float replicating the interior of their iconic “Mi Tierra” was a first in parade history, just as they were the first entire family (32 strong) to serve as Grand Marshal. For the first time the Parade was broadcast to over 200 markets around the world, showcasing our unique city and its rich cultural history.