The fall of the Alamo on March 6, 1836, is observed each year by a candlelit remembrance in downtown San Antonio. But another, more festive event commemorates the battle’s anniversary: an annual private party in Terrell Hills for the community that has developed around the Alamo mystique.
The party is held at the San Antonio home of Joan Headley, the executive director of Rebuilding Together San Antonio, a nonprofit. Ms. Headley started the event 17 years ago and has hosted the party ever since, inviting historians, re-enactors, collectors and artists from as far away as Australia and Britain.
The gathering is during what Alamo buffs call the High Holy Days around the anniversary. Public events in San Antonio include a remembrance ceremony, re-enactments and a daylong symposium. In the past, visitors have traveled by bus to Alamo Village, the now-closed set of “The Alamo,” a 1960 John Wayne movie. The village is near the town of Brackettville, 120 miles west of San Antonio.
“It’s more than just going to a site,” Gary Foreman, an Indiana-based producer of historical documentaries, said of his visits to the Alamo. “You keep seeing the same people coming back year after year, and you get to know them and the individual story of their fascination for the site.”
Ms. Headley’s own love for the Alamo began when she was a girl and staged battles in a child-size replica of the mission that her father built in her Dallas backyard. She pretended to be Lt. Col. William B. Travis; her best friend portrayed James Bowie. As she grew up, Ms. Headley decided that if she ever had a son, she would name him Travis. In 1974 she gave birth to Travis Headley, now a San Antonio lawyer, early on March 6.
“People still don’t believe it. They say, ‘You must have planned that,’ ” or had labor induced, Ms. Headley said. “Trust me, no — through 12 hours of labor, I was not thinking of the Alamo.”
Ms. Headley’s gathering was inspired by an annual Davy Crockett party organized by The Alamo Journal, which is published by the New Jersey-based Alamo Society. Her guest list has grown from the dozen people who attended the first event to about 250 this year. Past parties have drawn celebrities like Phil Collins, the singer-songwriter, who collects Alamo artifacts, and Fess Parker — the star of “Davy Crockett,” the 1950s television series — who died in 2010. Many of the partygoers were first introduced to the story of the Alamo by the series or by Mr. Wayne’s movie. Guests consider the gathering a family reunion, an event at which their intense devotion to the Alamo needs no explanation.
“Growing up, we all thought we were the only one that was really nuts about the Alamo, but we started finding out there were other people,” said Jim Grieco, who lives in New Jersey and makes the trip to San Antonio every year. He estimated he had seen the John Wayne movie more than 700 times.
Another New Jersey resident, Bill Chemerka, who founded the Alamo Society in 1986, has attended all 17 parties. He described the week in San Antonio as “a combination of going to the Wailing Wall, going to Vatican City and going to Mecca, but with a historical twist.”
This year’s party theme was “Alamo Oscars,” a nod to the awards season and to the 10th anniversary of the 2004 movie “The Alamo,” which starred Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid and Jason Patric, and in which Ms. Headley was an extra. Party guests were encouraged to dress up, and a strip of red carpet led from the street to the house.
Ms. Headley described the downstairs rooms of her two-story home as “all Alamo, all the time.” The walls are decorated with framed photos of the Alamo mission church. Alamo-themed books, commemorative plates, fringed sofa pillows and coasters fill every surface. The twin beds in the adjacent room have headboards shaped like the church’s iconic facade. At the “cantina,” a small downstairs kitchen, guests were served Alamo Golden Ale made by the Alamo Beer Company in San Antonio.
The Alamo Oscars program took place in the backyard, where guests turned their attention to the M.C., Stephen L. Hardin — a historian and the author of “Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836” — as he stood before a backdrop painted with a likeness of Davy Crockett and Oscar statuettes.
“Welcome, Alamaniacs,” Mr. Hardin began, before introducing Ms. Headley as the “First Lady of the Alamo.” The program continued with Travis Headley’s reading of “the Travis letter,” which William B. Travis wrote during the Mexican army’s siege of the Alamo and concluded with the words “victory or death.” Later, guests sang “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” from memory.
The awards ceremony, complete with custom statuettes featuring the mission church, included a category for Best Original Song written by a fan of the Alamo. Mike Boldt, a nominee and New Jersey native, performed “The Perch,” which describes a low wall facing the Alamo where partygoers meet after High Holy Days events.
As clouds scudded in front of the moon, Mr. Hardin thanked the guests and wished them well until next year. Craig Covner of San Diego, an enthusiast of Alamo architecture, lingered with Mike Waters, who was dressed as James Bowie and carried a reproduction of Bowie’s knife.
“I think the story of the Alamo is almost a metaphor for life,” Mr. Covner said. “You know you’re not getting out alive.” What matters is what you do, he said, “before that inevitable end.”