Fiesta San Antonio, previously called Fiesta San Jacinto, is a ten-day festival held every spring in San Antonio. It originated in the 1891 flower parade conceived by Ellen Maury Slayden, wife of Congressman James L. Slayden, as an April 21 salute to the heroes of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. A group of San Antonio women formed the Battle of Flowers Association. The first parade was moved a day ahead to accommodate the schedule of visiting President Benjamin Harrison, but it was then delayed for four days by bad weather. With the arrival of fair weather, participants in carriages pelted one another with flowers as they rounded Alamo Plaza. By 1895 an elaborate weeklong celebration surrounded the Battle of Flowers Parade, and the first queen was chosen. In 1909 the Order of the Alamo was organized, with John B. Carrington as president, to oversee some features of the carnival, including the election of the queen and her coronation. The Battle of Flowers Association continued to coordinate the parade, as well as a children's fete and a band competition, the forerunner of today's Band Festival. The parade tradition lapsed briefly during World War I, but another tradition was started-the Pilgrimage to the Alamo. By the 1980s the Daughters of the Republic of Texas were sponsoring this event, in which participants march from the city's Municipal Auditorium to the Alamo to hear the names of Texas men who died in the battle of the Alamo. The fiesta was not very old before the crowning of a king was added to the week's activities. Before a King Antonio line was established in 1916, kings were chosen by the Spring Carnival Association, the Downtown Business Club, and the Chamber of Commerce. Early monarchs were dubbed Selamat (tamales spelled backward), Omala (Alamo backward), King Cotton, Zeus, and Rex. In 1926, when the Texas Cavaliers were organized by Carrington, the king began to be named from their ranks. In the same year Mrs. Alfred Ward of the Battle of Flowers Association founded the Oratorical Contest for college students, to encourage writing on some phase of Texas history.
The celebration continued to grow, and by 1945 the San Antonio Conservation Society was playing a substantial role with its popular Night in Old San Antonio, held in picturesque La Villita. In the mid-1980s the Night in Old San Antonio, held on four successive evenings, continued to be one of the most popular and highly successful additions to the gala week. It is an authentically costumed recreation of San Antonio's early life under six flags, held in La Villita, an internationally recognized historic restoration of the little village that existed at the site before the time of the Alamo. By 1959 Fiesta Week had grown to the point that the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce formed a coordinating agency called the Fiesta San Antonio Commission, and the event became officially known as Fiesta San Antonio. In 1980 Fiesta royalty was expanded when the League of United Latin American Citizens Council No. 2 began the Paseo del Rey Feo (Ugly King Parade). By the mid-1980s the Fiesta San Antonio Committee was underwriting some twenty-five events, including the four major parades. The Battle of Flowers Parade continued to be the only major parade in the United States that was conceived, organized, and presented by a women's group. The Texas Cavaliers sponsored the annual River Parade, and their King Antonio attended nearly 120 Fiesta-related functions. Fiesta activities included art shows, sports tournaments, and tours of local historical areas and military bases. The final event of the festival had become the Fiesta Night Parade or "Fiesta Flambeau," sponsored by the San Antonio Jaycees and lit by torchlight and fireworks. In the early 1990s some 50,000 volunteers from the military, the general public, and more than eighty nonprofit organizations helped to put on the Fiesta events, which were estimated by organizers to generate more than $100 million for the community each year.