Victoria woman serves as duchess in Fiesta royal court
Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 16, 2012 at 12:16 a.m.
Updated May 17, 2012 at 12:17 a.m.
Fiesta is a spring festival held annually in San Antonio.
The event attracts millions of spectators and annually generates about $3 million in revenue for the city.
Fiesta traditions began in 1891.
Fiesta's Battle of Flowers Parade Association began crowning a queen in 1895.
Traditionally, the royal court includes 12 duchesses from San Antonio and 12 from out of state, a queen and princess.
When Mason Thompson learned she was selected to be a Fiesta San Antonio duchess last summer, she wasn't convinced it was anything special.
"My Mom told me one day last June that I needed to decide, that this is the day to decide" if I wanted to be a part the royal court, said Thompson, 21. "I didn't know what it was. But I just decided it would be fun and a totally new experience."
But a few months into the production of being a member of the Queen's Court of The Order of the Alamo, Thompson's attitude shifted.
"It was incredible to see how involved everyone is," she said. "I was blown away."
The Texas Christian University junior and Victoria native was hand selected by a family friend, and member of the Order of the Alamo, to be a part of the city's largest annual carnival and royal court, that celebrates Texas history for about a month each year.
Thompson was selected to be on the Court of the Wondrous Metropolis, as the Duchess of Hellenistic Might. About half the duchesses are San Antonio natives, while the other half are selected from anywhere in the world - as long as their sponsor is a member of the Order of the Alamo.
A queen and princess are also selected on the court.
Each of the girls are fitted with elaborate ball gowns with detailed, beaded trains depicting distinct cities of ancient and modern eras.
"My dress was absolutely stunning. It has every color under the sun, and purple is my favorite color," Thompson said. "Everything about the dress really seemed to feel like me."
Thompson's colorful train depicted the citadel columns at the main gate of Mycenae, Greece, with the Palace of Knossos on Crete as the central motif. A palmette design above the cityscape on the Greek Mediterranean coast was also beaded into the dress. Much of the train was intricately beaded and jeweled, Thompson said, making the material somewhat heavy.
"It wasn't easy to move in it," she said.
For four days, Thompson served out her duties on the queen's court, which included a two-hour coronation event with bow ceremony; a three-mile parade, where each of the duchesses rode in groups of three on Fiesta-decorated floats; a mini-coronation celebration at the historic Menger Hotel; and a few smaller events throughout the weekend.
One of Thompson's more memorable moments was riding on the parade float and listening to the spectators shout, "Show us your shoes!" as the float moved through the streets.
"That's part of the tradition there. They want to know what shoes are under your dress," she said. "I wore my TCU cowboy boots ... Most girls wore cowboy boots."
Thompson said the opportunity to serve on the royal court is one she won't soon forget. She was proud to represent her hometown, and be a part of an event with such historical roots to San Antonio and Texas.
"It was amazing to represent Victoria. A lot of people had never heard of Victoria, so trying to bring a name for Victoria to the court was important to me," Thompson said. "Hopefully, they'll remember me, and remember we were gracious and fun to be around."
Thompson's mother, Tenna Thompson, said she was proud her daughter chose to participate in the royal court. Her older daughter, Taylor Thompson, also served on the royal court years ago, and was excited to see the opportunity pass to her younger daughter.
"It's an honor to be invited as a girl from Victoria," Tenna Thompson said. "We're a small town, so it's nice to be included. You make lifelong friends and connections."
Now that the Fiesta excitement has died down, and Thompson has returned to school, she said her royal gown hangs on a mannequin in her Victoria home, with the train on full display.
She takes home with her the thrill of being a part of an event that forced her out of her comfort zone, and allowed her the experience of royalty.
"I feel like I've always been kind of a shy person. I'm more comfortable in smaller groups. I would never have classified myself as an outgoing person before this experience. But putting myself out there and meeting people from all over was really amazing," she said. "I think it's an amazing experience ... I never felt like anything less than a daughter of San Antonio."