It’s gayer than an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, bluer than a burlesque review, and raises millions for local charities. What may be the strangest of Fiesta’s oddball traditions is back for a limited engagement at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre.
Known to few outside of San Antonio, Cornyation began in 1951. Originally presented as the Court of the Cracked Salad Bowl, it was a costume pageant meant to spoof Fiesta’s elitist old guard. After hitting pause in the mid-sixties, the tradition reemerged in the ‘80s with just as much silliness and a sharper social bite.
Today, the spectacle is a three-day affair showcasing some of Alamo City’s most twisted creative talent. Months of preparation go into creating the lavish (and often garish) costumes, sets, and choreography. Even more time goes into brainstorming the skit’s scripts, which skewers local and national politics, celebrity culture, and noteworthy events from the previous year.
The spectacle is presided over by King Anchovy, the original garnish on top of the inaugural event’s salad. The honor has been held by City Council members, U.S. Representatives, and well-known philanthropists but requires no status. It’s also not gendered. Pig Liquors proprietor Anet Alaniz will rule this year’s Court of the Chaotic Wisdom.
Cornyation isn’t all pomp, of course. The volunteer-run organization has long supported HIV and AIDS education and other LGBTQ+ causes. The annual performances have raised more than $3 million for San Antonio AIDS Foundation, BEAT AIDS, the Thrive Youth Center, and scholarship recipients from area high schools.
Fiesta Cornyation runs April 25-27, with nightly shows at 7 pm and 10 pm. Tickets, starting at $15, are available online.