On the corner of East Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Street, community members and passersby were transported back two centuries to an era of Spanish colonialism during the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s first ever Presidio Pastimes by Candlelight event.
Through living history scenes and live performances, over a hundred attendees on Thursday learned about the everyday lifestyles and experiences of Spanish colonists living in and around the Santa Barbara Presidio, a military fortress that also served as government headquarters and cultural center during its heyday.
As event volunteers strolled along the Presidio in military and traditional colonial garb, participants could ask them questions about who they were, what they did, and how they lived. Frequent tours of the grounds and historical presentations were also made throughout the night as candles flickered and illuminated the living history reenactments.
“We got a lot of great feedback and responses about it being an evening event,” said Christa Clark Jones, development assistant at SBTHP. “And we got a lot of people because it was a first Thursday event too.”
Meredith Brockriede, an education assistant with SBTHP, thought everything went really well considering it was the first time SBTHP hosted such an event. “Once the site was lit, the event was quite beautiful,” Brockriede added.
Beginning and ending with a drill by Soldados de Real Presidio de Santa Barbara, event performances included reenactments of conversations between comandante Felipe de Goicoechea, played by SBTHP’s own Dr. Jarell Jackman, Governor Felipe DeNeve portrayed by local historian Michael Hardwick, and Lieutenant Jose Francisco Ortega played by descendant Jon Martinez.
“When my grandchildren saw me in my uniform their jaws dropped,” chuckled Jackman. “This event has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and we’ll definitely do it again in 2013 during our 50th anniversary celebration.”
Those dressed as soldiers reenacted traditional evening recreational activities like playing cards, strumming the guitar, and cleaning their weapons. Early California music was performed by Luis Moreno and Mike Mullins, while the Las Fiestras Dance troupe performed early California dances.
“For a lot of guests it was their first time at the Presidio, and they thought it was a really unique experience seeing it lit by candlelight like the old times,” Brockriede added. “People were really impressed by the dancing and music performances by Luis Moreno.”
According to Jackman, lots of people told him how they have walked past the Presidio all the time and had never been inside the rooms, which the event had populated with performers reenacting women’s handicrafts and cooking albondigas soup in the cocina throughout the night. There were also people working with harvested Sonora wheat, a strolling padre played by Ray Ogella, and guitar player Ben Valenzuela wandering throughout the Presidio.
“Lots of people were asking me detailed questions about Spanish colonial lifestyle, some of which I couldn’t even answer,” said Jackman. “Lots of children were present and engaged. It was a lot of fun.”