Saturday, April 25, 2015

Battle of Flowers Parade, Cascarones, and Texas A&M Corps of Cadets

Davy Crockett. Jim Bowie. William Barret Travis.  Three names among nearly two hundred. Heroism. Sacrifice. Remember the Alamo. 1836. Crumbling walls. Time  marches on...forgotten.

 In 1860, 24 years after Texan Independence, Ellen Maury was born in Charlottesville, Virginia on land which is now part of the University of Virginia campus. Thomas Jefferson, who designed UVA, entered the College of William and Mary in the 18th century because of a Maury family member. Born into a prestigious family, Ellen Maury was well educated. She was tutored at home. In 1876, she married a Texan rancher by the name of James Slayden. The story goes that Ellen met James while visiting her sister, Jane Maury Maverick. Jane's son Fontaine Maury Maverick, attended Virginia Military Institute and University of Texas at Austin before attending law school. Later he became the famed and memorable mayor of San Antonio...better known as Maury Maverick.

Meanwhile, the Alamo of tumbled crumbling stone had been forgotten save a quiet guardianship obtained by Senator Temple Houston, son of General Sam Houston who defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. 

From the quietness of tumbling stone came the life of  tumbling flowers...the Battle of Flowers Parade! Inspired by European tradition Ellen Maury Slayden organized a group of ladies to honor the fallen heroes of the Alamo with a literal battle of flowers. On the anniversary week of the Battle of San Jacinto, carriages bedecked with flowers rode past each other in front of the Alamo as the occupants pelted each other with flowers. The 1891 event became an annual tradition that lives on today.

The Battle of Flowers is unique in that it is the only parade in the United States that is organized soley by women. Not only is it the largest parade of Fiesta week, but it is the second largest parade in the country (the first largest being the Tournament of Roses Parade). Today the women who organize this grand event dress in yellow hats and dresses for the parade. During the 100 year anniversary in 1991, the original parade was recreated with the literal battling of flowers. Always remembering the Alamo, parade participants leave a floral tribute as they pass the Alamo.

I have been to many of the Battle of Flower parades over the years. I attended my first one with my boyfriend...who became my husband. For my first parade he took me to the Blue House, a two story Victorian owned by First Baptist Church, on the parade route. We sat with friends on the second story balcony located near the start of the parade route. The television commentators are below.  There is something for everyone in the parade. From antique cars, to horses, to gowns...

Blue House Balcony on Broadway

President Fiesta Commission

One of the Elegant Trains for One of the Royal Court

King Antonio

Another Stunning Royal Gown

...and the Incredible Train

I think this is the USAF Band of the West?

El Rey Feo

Here is the Train...

...and Here is the Gown

A Fun Float for the  Kids

Over the years I think we attended at least three more Battle of Flowers Parades, at least two with our kids. For those we had a different venue at the other end of the parade route near the Alamo.  After doing this the first time, a new tradition was born. What better vantage point than in front of the Alamo...under the shady trees! Practically shade is a treat since it can be quite hot and humid this time of year in San Antonio.  Emotionally though, it helped me to tie in the meaning of the festivities to the intent of the remember our fallen heroes at the Alamo. What a fitting setting.

One of the many traditions of Fiesta is cascarones...or confetti filled eggs.  I learned how to make them from a friend when we were in the fifth grade. It is quite easy. Everyone smashes them on each other heads during Fiesta. It's definitely a colorful time! My mother-in-law went to the parade with me and the kids when my husband was overseas one year. She asked about the cascarones. I guess they don't have those in New York! 

Another fun tradition of Fiesta is that there is no school on Friday! That's because it is the day of the Battle of Flowers Parade. All of the high school bands participate in the parade. In fact, the night before they have the annual Battle of the Bands tournament at...Alamo Stadium! Remember the Alamo!

And yet another incredible tradition of the Battle of Flowers Parade is the Corps of Cadets from Texas A&M who I do believe has been permamently invited to open every Battle of Flowers Parade.  Here is video footage of Texas A&M from today's parade. Scroll down to "Parade Video" and then select "Battle of Flowers Parade Part I."  Start at the eleven minute mark for about 5 minutes of Aggie footage! Aggies are a big deal in Texas! Oh the thrill of being there in person as they come marching through!

As an addendum to Ellen Maury Slayden, her husband became a US Congressman, so they moved to Washington DC for part of their lives before retiring in San Antonio. She wrote a book of their Washington years called, Washington Wife: Journal of Ellen Maury Slayden from 1897-1919. I've read that it's a great primary source document of all the political and cultural doings of the times!

I feel a bit of kinship with Ellen Maury Slayden in that I am from San Antonio and now I live 2 hours north of Charlottesville and an hour west of Washington DC. Portraying her in historical costume, (and even Clara Driscoll whom I wrote about yesterday) would be great fun! I'm always excited by Texas/Virginia connections of people from the past! Sam Houston and Ellen Maury Slayden as well as two others who fought and fell at the Alamo ( George Washington Main, and Patrick Henry Herndon) to name a few.   

I think I remember where my Fiesta costume pictures are. Here's hoping! Also there is one more parade. All of that tomorrow as we continue to Remember the Alamo!

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