Each year, when the calendar turns over to the month of April, San Antonio collectively turns to one the city’s most beloved traditions: Fiesta! For nearly a fortnight, the entire city is caught up in a revelry of music, food and cascarones.

A Fiesta highlight is the event that started it all, the Battle of Flowers parade. In existence for over 130 years, the parade is one of the oldest and most successful fundraising events in all of Texas. Given its importance in the community and its history of philanthropy, the question eventually had to be asked at some point: Why hasn’t the San Antonio Area Foundation previously had a float in the parade?

The Area Foundation is our region’s most impactful and trusted philanthropic leader, uplifting and empowering hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the decades. Six decades, to be exact – with the marking of 2024 as our 60th anniversary, it was decided that it was about time we literally joined the party!

“I’m so excited we’re going to be part of the Battle of Flowers this year,” effused Faelyn Smith, the Area Foundation’s Senior Associate of Scholarship & Relief Programs, who originally came up with the idea. “I guess how this all transpired was, last year, the Area Foundation had booked some bleacher seats for our staff. We were there watching the parade and the floats with all the local nonprofits go by and I just said, ‘Why are we not part of this?’”

The 60th Anniversary Steering Committee took up participation in Fiesta as one of its agenda items. The next steps were to design and create a float that would be reflective of the mission and goals. Fortunately, we were able to tap into homegrown talent for the job.

“My role, mainly, has been to sketch what the float could look like and to provide different options,” explained Jesus Garcia-Gonzalez, Senior Program Officer with the Community Engagement and Impact team. “So, I went through several different sketches before [the float] got approved. The intent [behind] the work I was doing was to showcase our vision and mission, and the work that we do in the community.”

Capturing the essence of what the Area Foundation is all about proved to be quite the task; however, it was one that Garcia-Gonzalez was up for. The initial designs reflected on the origins of the Area Foundation, but over time, the float transitioned into something more representative of both its role in the community and the theme of this year’s parade: Viva Amor.

“The design truly showcases that we are here and that we hoped to be here for the next 60 years continuing to do the work that we are doing,” Garcia-Gonzalez explained.

For the Battle of Flowers, high school scholarship awardees were tapped to staff the float. This was done to truly reflect what the Area Foundation has been about and to highlight just a small part of what it accomplishes each year. It’s also a great way to tie into the spirit of Fiesta. The Area Foundation float will also make a second appearance, featuring staff members, at the Fiesta Flambeau Parade the day after Battle of Flowers.

“We give out $10 million a year in scholarships and we thought having a float [with students] would be a fun way to share the story of all that the Area Foundation does to support education in the community,” explained Laura Giacomoni, Executive Director of Development & Donor Services. “Being a part of the parade, we thought, would be special for the scholarship winners and it would be fun, since it is such a big part of the community.”

It may be the Area Foundation’s first time featuring a Fiesta float – but it may not be the last.

“I think us taking part in Fiesta has been a long time coming,” said Smith. “We’ve been here obviously for 60 years, and this is the first time we’ve done something like this. I think [being in the parade] is really showcasing the trajectory that we’re trying to make and to really get involved and connect with the community.”

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Eric Moreno is a member of the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Storytelling Ambassador Contributor Network.