Night In Old San Antonio®” (NIOSA®) is a four-night
festival in the heart of downtown San Antonio that celebrates the city’s
diverse cultural legacy for more than 85,000 revelers annually. Sponsored by and benefiting The Conservation Society of San Antonio, the 72nd presentation of NIOSA will
be held April 20-23, 2021, during the city’s
Fiesta San Antonio® celebration.
“A Night in Old San Antonio®” celebrates and funds historic preservation.
Founded in 1924, the The Conservation Society of San Antonio is one of the oldest
and most active community preservation groups in the United States. Beginning
with efforts to prevent historic structures from being razed and to preserve
such unique sites as the city’s Spanish Colonial missions, the society has been
responsible for saving most of the historic attractions that now make San
Antonio one of the top tourist destinations in Texas.
THAT WAS THEN...
NIOSA began in 1938 as the “Indian Festival,” a one-night street fair held in the fall and patterned after the fiestas of San Antonio’s early days; it netted $336.11 for the Conservation Society. The festival was presented for a few years under different names, finally becoming the “River Festival” in 1944. In 1946, the City of San Antonio asked the Conservation Society to hold its event during Fiesta. In 1948 the one-street, one-night festival was called “A Night In Old San Antonio” for the first time. By 1958 it had expanded to four nights and in 1966, the name was registered and trademarked, reserving it exclusively for the Conservation Society.
In its earliest years, NIOSA relied on Conservation Society members for all the food. When chili stands reminiscent of those in San Antonio’s old plazas were instituted in 1947, volunteers made the chili at home to sell there. Members baked desserts and cut flowers from their own gardens. Society members were asked to contribute $1 if they were not preparing homemade candy, but needs for the burgeoning event were outstripping the capabilities of members’ kitchens: in 1953, the Conservation Society ordered pies from the area’s best bakeries, and 1,000 dozen tamales “to go.”
THIS IS NOW…..
NIOSA is the top fundraiser for historic preservation in the nation and truly lives up to its motto as a “Celebration for Preservation.” Funds raised enable the Conservation Society to continue its mission of preserving historic buildings, objects, places and customs relating to the history of Texas and all that is admirably distinctive to the state. Out of the roughly $1.4 million netted at NIOSA, proceeds support restoration and preservation of historic properties and parks throughout the city, as well as education and advocacy programs and projects such as the Heritage Education tours, seminars, community tours, scholarships, the resource library and the house museums.
Through the magic of 240-plus food, drink and atmosphere booths; 13 live musical acts; children’s games; decorations; souvenirs; and 13,000 enthusiastic volunteers, NIOSA brings the city’s heritage alive in its 15 cultural areas.
On the average, NIOSA revelers annually consume over 17,000 lbs. of beef; 11,000 lbs. of chicken; 5,000 lbs. of sausage; 3,000 turkey legs; 25,000 buns, rolls and bolillos; 30,000 tortillas; 2,000 lbs. of masa; 6,000 tamales; 15,000 lbs. of fruits and vegetables; and 1,000 lbs. of guacamole
However, some things don’t change!
- Food items are created, perfected, and prepared by NIOSA volunteers in certified NIOSA kitchens and on-site and truly reflect the areas where they can be found. In fact, sometimes the only place they can be enjoyed is at NIOSA.
- All booths are run by Conservation Society volunteers; many whom are second or third generation of a family. Volunteers come from all over the country to work at NIOSA.