Old Spanish Days Fiesta has always had a Spirit — one girl chosen to represent the essence of Spanish heritage in Santa Barbara. Fifteen girls between the ages of 16 and 21 compete for the annual title, and a comparable number of girls ages 9-11 now compete for the title of Junior Spirit.
This year’s Spirit of Fiesta is 18-year-old USC sophomore Asia McLaughlin. Asia, who has eight years of dance experience with the Linda Vega dance group, will perform classic flamenco around town during Fiesta week. The year-long Spirit reign involves a rigorous schedule of community service, public speaking, and dance performances — highlights include opening night at the Old Mission, leading the Fiesta parade, and performing solo dance nightly at Las Noches de Ronda. Asia describes the title as a “creative outlet” that allows her to “share what’s unique about Santa Barbara” through her own interpretation of flamenco.
Flamenco, a traditional dance originated by the gypsy culture of Spain’s southern Andalusia region, is a three-pronged art including song, dance, and guitar. Ten-year-old Junior Spirit Olivia Villalovos will demonstrate the technique, imbuing the dances with her own personality. She will also lead the Children’s Parade, El Desfile de los Niños, and performing at Tarde de Ronda, among other events.
— Lynne Simpson