Mayor Helene Schneider (right) with El Presidente J.C. Gordon and his wife Jamie (far left), and daughters Olivia and Avianna.

Gail Arnold

Mayor Helene Schneider (right) with El Presidente J.C. Gordon and his wife Jamie (far left), and daughters Olivia and Avianna.

La Fiesta Pequeña Is a Magical Evening

Dancers Enthrall the Audience at the Old Mission Santa Barbara

Thousands of Fiesta fans flocked to the Santa Barbara Mission Wednesday, August 3, for a magical evening of dance and song. The 700 VIPs were greeted by two seemingly endless lines of precious flower girls proffering a rainbow assortment of flowers to the attendees as they walked to their seating. Thousands more watched the show from the expansive lawns stretching all the way down to the Rose Garden.

After a lovely blessing by Brother Regan, Father Larry Gosselin warmly greeted the audience. He acknowledged this year’s theme of “Santa Barbara: The Coastal Frontier” and the magnificent views of the ocean from the Mission. He asked the audience to “feel the waves of the ocean just rush over you — they are waves of love — and just be embedded in that love because that’s what we’re about as people of Santa Barbara. We are people of culture, love, and beauty … Viva la Fiesta.”

Then the stage was cleared, rich music filled the air, and all eyes were on the double doors of the Mission, which to much anticipation opened to reveal the Spirit of Fiesta, Alexis Simentales, for the first time, in her white gown. She proceeded to dazzle the crowd with her dance to “Si Te Dicen de Cai.” The setting could not have been more spectacular, with the Mission’s façade illuminated in a violet hue overall and the bells lit up in a soft golden tone.

El Presidente J.C. Gordon briefly addressed the crowd, as did Mayor Helene Schneider, who noted that she likes to call this event “a national holiday of Santa Barbara … it’s just a beautiful place to be.” She commented on “the beauty of Santa Barbara and Fiesta — we work hard, we play hard, we honor our heritage, and we honor each other as a community.”

The Junior Spirit, Sarah Naretto, captivated the audience with her dance to “Nana.”

There were lively performances from 15 dance troupes from Santa Barbara and beyond, including Zermeno Dance Academy, where both the Spirit and Junior Spirit dance, and Vega Dance Studio. World-renowned operatic tenor Eduardo Villa, a native of Santa Barbara, delighted the crowd with two performances.

A magical evening indeed — viva!

Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, Inc. is a nonprofit that honors and preserves our history. Fiesta events continue through Sunday. For a list of remaining events, go to

By Gail Arnold

The Spirit of Fiesta, Alexis Simentales.

By Gail Arnold

Co-emcees Father Larry Gosselin and KEYT anchor Beth Farnsworth.

By Gail Arnold

The Fiesta Flower Girls and La Senoritas.

By Gail Arnold

Cruz Dance Studio.

By Gail Arnold

Old Spanish Days board member Erin Graffy de Garcia (center) with her husband Jim Garcia and her sister Kerry Graffy.

By Gail Arnold

Alma de Mexico.

By Gail Arnold

Mayor Helene Schneider (right) with El Presidente J.C. Gordon and his wife Jamie (far left), and daughters Olivia and Avianna.

By Gail Arnold

The Junior Spirit of Fiesta, Sarah Naretto.

By Gail Arnold

Groupo Folklorico West LA.

By Gail Arnold

Segunda Vice Presidente Denise Sanford, Vice Presidenta Tesorera Barbara Carroll, and Primera Vice Presidenta Rhonda Ledson Henderson.

By Gail Arnold

Thousands watch from the lawns in front of the Santa Barbara Mission.

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