The citizens of San Antonio woke up to a torrential downpour on April 20, 1891, when the first Battle of Flowers Parade was to coincide with a visit to San Antonio by President Benjamin Harrison. Not letting it rain on the parade, the celebration was held four days later, honoring the fallen heroes of the Alamo and those that fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, gaining Texas its independence from Mexico.

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Inspired by the exotic intrigues of the Orient, cousins Mrs. Murray Crossette and Mrs. Glen S. Key reign royally in a flower-bedecked rickshaw during the 1907 Battle of Flowers Parade. Mrs. Key served as president of the Battle of Flowers Association in 1957 and 1958.

Inspiration for the celebration came from Ellen Maury Slayden, the wife of a U.S. Congressman. She suggested that San Antonio have a “flower battle” modeled after a parade that she had seen one summer in Valencia, Spain. Pursuing their plans, a large group of women went to the ranch home of Col. and Mrs. H. B. Andrews, outstanding leaders of San Antonio, for preliminary discussion of a flower celebration that would keep Texas history fresh in the minds of future generations. Andrews’ advice was for the group to enlist the help of members of the San Antonio Club, whose exclusive quarters were in the Grand Opera House building.

The startled gentlemen, who up to that time had never had a woman at one of their meetings, listened with attentive interest to their president, Col. Andrews, tell what the group had in mind. Jubilant over their success, the women elected Mrs. H. D. Kampmann chairperson of the first Flower Parade, and the men formed a committee to arrange financial matters and assist with the program.

San Antonio had a population of 38,000, according to the census of 1891. Well over 10,000 spectators lined Houston, St. Mary’s, Main, Commerce and Alamo Streets to marvel as a parade of flower-adorned carriages made its way to Alamo Plaza. The procession was then divided — each going in an opposite direction. In passing, the revelers pelted each other with fresh flowers that had been picked from gardens throughout San Antonio and surrounding communities because of the large quantity needed to stage such a spectacular event. When an hour had passed, the parade marshal gave the signal for the battle to end, and all withdrew.

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In horse-drawn carriage: three oldest daughters of Sophie Nimitz and Otto Wahr-mund; from left, Clara Wahrmund (later Sommers), Anna Wahrmund (later Barbeck), and Amelia Wahrmund (later Saenger). This would have been ca. 1895-1900 Battle of Flowers Parade.

The 1891 celebration proved to be such a success that the organizers all agreed that the Flower Battle and Parade must be repeated in 1892. And the rest, as they say, is history.

“The Battle of Flowers Association is honored to be the founding organization where Fiesta San Antonio began,” said Battle of Flowers Association president Lynn Ziegler. “This year is our birthday, too. And you can bet your last cascaron that the women of the Battle of Flowers Association are planning parade pageantry that is as big as the great state in which we reside.”

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Duchess of Winter in the Battle of Flowers Parade in 1909, year of the Order of the Alamo’s founding, was Virginia Maverick (later Mrs. Murray Crossette), niece of Ellen Maury Slayden, who suggested that San Antonio have a flower battle after one that she had seen in Valencia, Spain.

Celebrating Texas women who have made their mark on our community, 2016 parade chairman Anna-Laura Howell Block announced Rosemary Kowalski as the 125th Anniversary parade marshal and Gen. Angela Salinas as honorary grand marshal.

As the only parade in the United States produced entirely by women, all of whom are volunteers, the Battle of Flowers Association has supported the educational, artistic, social and philanthropic achievements of their community’s youth with sponsorship of parade entries for area high schools, parade and band festival art contests, essay contests for area teens, collegiate oratorical competitions, band competitions, children’s charities parade-watching celebrations and by affording nonprofit organizations the opportunity to raise funds for worthy causes with over 45,000 parade seats sold by charities along the parade route each year.

Tickets for the Battle of Flowers Parade on Friday, April 22, are available by going to the Battle of Flowers website, battleofflowers.org, and clicking on parade. Viewers will be taken to a ticket site where full diagrams of the reserved bleacher seating will pop up. Parade patrons may browse sections and select seats that are available. Tickets are also available for purchase beginning in March at the Fiesta Store, 2611 Broadway.

By John Bloodsworth
PHOTOS COURTESY OF RITA SCHRIMPF, BARBARA MCGAUGHY, JAMIE BLOODSWORTH