This Fiesta Tradition Celebrates San Antonio’s Quirky Side

A new book chronicles Cornyation, the Fiesta party-within-a-party with an LGBT sensibility.

By Laura RiceApril 21, 2017 1:16 pm

There’s a big party going on right now in San Antonio. Actually, it’s dozens of parties within a party.

Every year, millions attend the 10-day-long Fiesta. It features parades, food tastings, cultural events, sports and dances. But one of the most popular and colorful of these events is Cornyation. It’s been going on since the 1950s and has become one of the state’s longest-running LGBT celebrations.

In a new book that takes the event’s name as its own, Amy Stone explores the history of Cornyation. It is part theatre, part drag show and all parts fun. And though Cornyation celebrates the LGBT community, Stone says the show has never been exclusively by or for those who identify as LGBT.

“Cornyation has been a place where a really diverse audience can appreciate camp and can appreciate drag for what gay artistry brings to the city,” Stone says.

Additionally, Stone says the celebration adds elements of political and social consciousness to its shows.

“I often describe it as a mock debutante pageant that mated with a political satire with lots of glitter and drag and camp,” Stone says.

Each year, the event adopts a different theme to keep it relevant within the context of recent events.

“This year’s the court of insane privilege,” Stone says. “I think there’s a disproportionate focus on national politics in the show this year.”

Though the show’s theme this year may be more national, Stone says it remains grounded as a uniquely San Antonian tradition.

“And this is part of what I love about san Antonio is that there’s a real place for siesta, for celebration, for release, for fun,” Stone says. “At first I was surprised to see something like Cornyation in San Antonio, but after living there for a decade, it makes a lot more sense to me that it’s a place where we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Written by Morgan O’Hanlon.