This year’s Fiesta celebration—still four months away—has been rent by heated controversy after dance judges hired by Old Spanish Days declared 12-year-old flamenco dancer Sadee Broida this year’s Junior Spirit even though Old Spanish Days rules only allow applicants between the ages of 9 and 11. The rules also clearly bar anyone older than 11 or living out of town from competing. Broida also lives in Ojai with her parents, and Old Spanish Days rules explicitly restrict entry to Santa Barbara County residents. “We’re going to very diligently gather up all the information we can,” said Old Spanish Days spokesperson Kathryn McKee, “and then make the best decision we can.”
McKee acknowledged that the issue has become intensely heated among the Santa Barbara flamenco dance community for whom Fiesta functions as the equivalent of the high holy days. McKee said Broida and another dancer were allowed to compete in the Junior Spirit pre-auditions despite their ages—both were 12—because Old Spanish Days sent out some publicity information that erroneously stated dancers as old as 12 could enter. (The other over-age dancer backed out before the final audition that took place last Saturday at La Cumbre Junior High School.)
As for the county residency requirement, McKee said the rules are quite clear. The Broidas reportedly spend their summers in Santa Barbara, and it remains to be seen how persuasive that might be. To date, no lawsuits have been threatened, but the Broidas have reportedly hired an attorney.