In late April, tiny pastel bits of a giant San Antonio party show up everywhere: trickling from your hair, embedded in the carpet under your desk, stuck to your furniture. The confetti comes from an egg that was cracked over your head by a mischievous friend or relative, and it's inescapable.
Not that anyone is really trying to escape. Cacarones, as the eggs are called, have become part of San Antonio's 117-year-old citywide party called Fiesta.
For 10 days starting April 18, this city will host parades, open-air concerts and festivals that return this fast-growing big city to its roots as a small town that has always been equal parts Texan and Mexican. (Cascarones — pronounced kas-kah-ROHN'-es — actually began as a Mexican Easter tradition but have been adopted by Fiesta-goers.)
Fiesta includes 100 events that will rack up an attendance count of roughly 3 million, though many of those will be counted at more than one event, said Fiesta Commission spokeswoman Anne Keever Cannon. All the events are organized by nonprofits, many as fundraisers to support scholarships or charitable causes.
Lots of the events are free, including the parades, a carnival and several music and food festivals held downtown.
While about one-fifth of the people who attend a Fiesta event come from out of town, most Fiesta-goers are locals, and many have been watching parades or attending events for decades. Families tend to crowd the same street corners to watch parades year after year.
"We have people who have been coming to Fiesta events literally for generations," said Cannon.
Fiesta die-hards also like to exchange pins or medals shaped like military honors, either handmade or purchased by families for the celebration.
"They run up to any person who wears a crown or wears a sash and says 'I'll give you one if you give me one of yours,'" said Cannon, who has traced the tradition back 60 years.
Fiesta began in 1891 with flower-decorated carriages and ladies pelting each other with blossoms in a "battle of flowers" at the Alamo. The event was meant to commemorate the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, where Texans won independence. (The Texans actually lost at the Alamo, which took place before the San Jacinto fight, but few around here say that aloud.)
The Battle of Flowers parade is still a major Fiesta event. It's an official holiday for city workers and schoolchildren, observed this year on April 25. Another major parade with lighted floats is held the following night.
Many people decorate their clothing or hair in flowers, and the crowd yells, "Show us your shoes!" at the queens and princesses riding floats. The royal riders lift the hems of their ball gowns to reveal everything from Chuck Taylor high-tops to ice skates.
Fiesta opens with a ceremony in front of the Alamo on the morning of April 18. The two kings of Fiesta, King Antonio and El Rey Feo, launch the celebration with a ceremonial necktie cutting (since Fiesta is meant to be casual and fun) and the breaking of a cascarone.
That day the rally cry won't be "Remember the Alamo!" Instead, try "Viva Fiesta!"