Just as the last of the Independence Day tourists straggle their way down the 101, Carpinteria is preparing to celebrate an event that is decidedly local: St. Joseph’s Festival, taking place July 9, 10, and 11.
Now in its 53rd year, the festival is a family-friendly weekend of carnival-style fun and games, including mouthwatering Mexican fare and a beachside Ferris wheel, said Sara Macias, who has been involved with the festival since its inauguration in 1957.
Macias has witnessed the transformation of St. Joseph’s Festival from neighborhood potluck to full-fledged occasion. In that half-century or more of growth, however, the committee of volunteers has not strayed from the festival’s homespun dedication to church, family, and self-sufficiency. “It’s hard work and lots of hours,” Macias said, “but so much fun because you are helping and serving people.”
Back in 1957, St. Joseph’s Festival consisted solely of one or two rides, Mexican food (homemade, from the frying pans of Macias and other neighbors), Bingo, and Dime Pitch. In succeeding years, the festival gathered steam under the leadership of Fr. Frances W. Roughan—head of the parish for 16 years and Carpinteria’s “Man of the Year” in 1974—and the menu expanded to include French fries, hot dogs, and other Americana cuisine. This year, patrons will enjoy BBQ tri-tip burritos from the family of Marty Macias, corn on the cob, Anne Gilligan’s legendary strawberry shortcake, and pozole. Daniel Osuna’s tacos de cabeza—made from the rich meat of the cow’s cheek and tongue—may be on the adventurous side of the spectrum for many, but Sara Macias said they are sure to attract aficionados from as far as Santa Maria.
The menu is not the only part of the festival that has grown impressively. This year, guests can enjoy thrill rides ‘til they drop—provided enough time is spent between their third round of tacos de cabeza and a stint on the Sea Dragon. There will also be a performance by the 2010 Spirit of Fiesta, Erika Martin del Campo on Saturday at 3 p.m., and by a traditional Aztec dance group on Sunday at 3:15 p.m. The latter, called Danza Azteca Mayahuel, uses the traditional Aztec huehuetl drum and native Náhuatl language to bring a piece of Azteca culture to the audience. Through their spiritual dance, the Azteca Mayahuel stresses the importance of dialogue between generations. Seems appropriate for a festival that boasts grandfathers and grandsons working alongside each other in the same booth.