Battle of Flowers® Parade History Overview

1891 – 1915

On April 24, 1891, the first Battle of Flowers Parade was held after a four-day rain delay. The Parade was conceived by Ellen Maury Slayden to honor the heroes of the Alamo and to commemorate the victory at San Jacinto. The first floats, wagons and carriages were all horse drawn until 1901 when the Express News reported our Parade to be the first in the nation to have horseless vehicles. In 1914, we adopted our constitution and a fifty-year charter and seal were granted by the state of Texas. The first Children’s Fete was held that year at the Grand Opera House. The Fete was presented annually for the next forty years.

By 1915, the Parade had grown so in scope that the floats could no longer be decorated with fresh flowers. It became necessary to have a place to build and decorate our floats. Our first “Den,” an old abandoned cotton gin, located at 420 Oak Street was purchased. Carnival groups all called the place where their floats were built “Dens;” hence the name.

1916 – 1940

Just three weeks before the 1917 Parade, war was declared. It was decided the Parade should go on that year. But, in 1918, there was no thought of a Parade. However, on Sunday, April 21, thousands made a solemn pilgrimage to the Alamo. In 1919, a Victory Parade to the Alamo was held, where a mound of flowers expressed our gratitude for peace. Celebrations were resumed the next year.

The first Oratorical Contest was held in 1926. Percy Foreman, a future attorney of great renown, was the winner! In 1927, the south half of property to the Old Madre was purchased and the first Den was built. Our Parade continued to grow and in 1933, we obtained exclusive rights to build grandstands on Alamo Plaza. The Band Festival became an official Fiesta event in 1936. It was held in Auditorium Plaza on the morning of the Parade. Also, in 1936, J. Frank Dobie wrote and staged a pageant in front of the Alamo while the crowd waited for the Parade, which was delayed because the Queen’s float was too tall to pass under the street banners. In 1940, our first Parade with no horse drawn floats was held, the Red Cross provided first aid stations, and the word
“Education” was added to our statement of purpose.

1941 – 1965

The year 1941 marked our fiftieth anniversary. The Band Festival moved to Alamo Stadium, we had our first printed line-up of the Parade, and it was decided the Oratorical Contest theme would always be based on Texas history.

In 1942, the Parade and Band Festival were cancelled until the end of World War II, but all agreed that the Oratorical Contest and the Pilgrimage to the Alamo must continue. The first Military Coordinator in 1953 was Major General Clements McMullen, USAF.

In 1959, with the “Den” property in the path of the new expressway, property on Stafford Street was purchased to include the historic John J. Pershing School Building. Dedication of the one story 10,000 square foot concrete and steel structure was in June 1961. The Fiesta San Antonio Commission Inc. was chartered in 1959, for the purpose of coordinating activities of the annual Fiesta Week Celebration.

1966 – 1991

In 1966, we celebrated our 75 th anniversary. Additional property was purchased on Stafford Street and by 1972, a metal float building structure was constructed on the property. The first Pre-Parade Picnic was held that year at Alamo Hall and a Commercial Float Section was added to the Parade.

The famous yellow hat was first worn in 1973, and the yellow dress followed just three years later. In 1989, the yellow hat became our official membership pin. On our 100 th anniversary in 1991, we introduced our first commemorative pin, the Centennial Pin.

1992 – Present

Our first annual Texas Wildflower Pin, the Bluebonnet, was created in 1992. That same year we trademarked our name, The Battle of Flowers®. Three years later in 1995, we established the Seventh Grade Essay Contest that would share the theme of the Oratorical Contest. All Band Festival participants were given jacket patches, and a Fireworks Extravaganza was added to the Massed Band Grand Finale in 1996. Our Mission Statement: “The Battle of Flowers® Association…celebrating Texas history” was adopted in 1997. The Oratorical Contest celebrated its 75 th anniversary in 2000, with former winners invited as honored guests at the Luncheon. An award-winning Public Relations video of the Battle of Flowers® history was produced in 2003. This video documented our storied history. “Parade Thyme,” our first cookbook, was published in 2004.

The first Band Festival Program Cover Art Show was held in 2005. In 2006, the first complimentary Souvenir Parade Program was produced for our spectators. The Battle of Flowers® Association received its 501.c3 charitable status in 2008. Tractors were used to pull the Public School floats in 2008 and the Court floats in 2009. A bright yellow awning for the Official Reviewing Stands was used for the 2011 Parade. In 2012, the Oratorical Contest moved from the Garden Center to the Witte Museum. Four professional judges were hired in addition to our Battle of Flowers® judges and the luncheon was catered for the first time. A public relations director was hired in 2012. Under his guidance, our first Children’s Picnic and Parade Watching Party was held in Maverick Park. Over 800 children and their families from San Antonio children’s charities were invited to attend.

In 2013, for the first time in thirty-seven years, a new float builder, Lonestar Floats, was hired to manufacture our Public School and Court Floats. To commemorate twenty-five years of service for Honorary Members, acrylic Alamo mementos were given to those members going Honorary beginning in 2013. For the years 2013 and 2014, the Band Festival was held at Northeast ISD Comalander Stadium during the renovation of Alamo Stadium.

The 125 th anniversary of the Battle of Flowers® Association was celebrated in 2016. A Wildflower scarf was designed, “Parade Thyme” cookbook was updated and both were sold to commemorate the historical year.

The Battle of Flowers® Association’s success is based on both tradition and new ideas. Ours is the only parade of this magnitude produced entirely by women, all of whom are volunteers.