Think Fiesta is just about the food and the dancing? Think again. Just ask Si and Karen Jenkins, this year’s Honorary Fiesta Vaqueros and long-time Fiesta Stock Horse Show participants. When Si first got involved with the Horse Show and Rodeo more than 50 years ago, the rodeo was still held at Pershing Park and featured only roping events. Today, it has evolved into “one of the most significant events of Fiesta,” said Si, drawing some of the biggest crowds of the week. To honor Si and Karen’s commitment to the equestrian community of Santa Barbara, they have been named 2008’s Honorary Fiesta Vaqueros.
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Si graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1951. He had already begun working at Jedlicka’s a few years earlier, and has remained there ever since. Originally, Jedlicka’s was a shoe repair shop, but has morphed over time into a saddlery, which now outfits many of the county’s ranchers with authentic Western work clothing and equipment. Karen has spent much of her life on ranches, living for a time on the Ventura Ranch in Woodland before moving to her family’s ranch in Ojai. These days, Karen spends most of her time looking after the family horses.
Since Si began working with the Stock Horse Show in the 1940s, he has seen the event grow in size dramatically. He credits the new cowboy classes, teaching riding and roping skills, with offering a genuine ranch experience, as opposed to the earlier exhibition shows that were created purely for entertainment. “The biggest change is the quality of the horses and the quality of the riders. They’ve gotten into more real stuff, more practical,” he said.
One tradition the couple has enjoyed in past Fiestas was the opening night ceremony. “We used to ride our horses down to the opening at the Mission just for fun,” said Si. Another highlight for them in the early 1950s was when they participated in the Santa Barbara Bowl show, before it turned into a purely musical venue.
Having been Grand Marshall of the parade twice previously, Si is no stranger to the parade. This year, Si and Karen will be riding their own two horses, named Homer and Boon, respectively. In addition to furnishing the shows with saddles and silver for years, the Jenkinses have provided mounts for several of Fiesta’s El Presidentes.