On the picturesque hilltop at the Santa Barbara Zoo last Thursday, August 4, 1,200 attendees got into the Fiesta spirit at La Celebración de los Dignatarios while enjoying food, beverages, a short program, and dancing. The event is jointly run by Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, Inc. and the Santa Barbara Zoo and raises funds for both organizations.
Guests were greeted at the zoo entrance by a lively mariachi band before strolling the beautiful walkway to the large hilltop where festively decorated booths offered a wide selection of food and beverages, including the infamous DIGs margaritas. DJ Hecktik provided the tunes for partygoers clad in a mix of Old Spanish Days costumes, cowboy outfits, and Santa Barbara chic attire.
The short program included welcoming remarks from the zoo’s CEO Rich Block, El Presidente J.C. Gordon, and Mayor Helene Schneider. One “dignatario” — Terence Daly — was recognized as El Presidente in 1966, 50 years ago. Coincidentally, Daly was celebrating his 92nd birthday that day, just as Old Spanish Days is in its 92nd year this year.
A major highlight of the evening was a breathtaking flamenco dance performance by this year’s Spirit, Alexis Simentales. She had just wowed the crowd the night before at Fiesta Pequeña and was off after her performance at the zoo to Noches de Ronda and then the parade the next day, followed by Noches de Ronda in the evening … and she thoroughly delights the crowd with every performance.
Among the dignatarios in attendance were County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, County Sheriff Bill Brown, the new Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, a few city councilmembers, and Father Larry Gosselin.
The hilltop setting afforded gorgeous mountain and ocean views framed by the lush zoo landscaping. With the party running from 5-10 p.m., guests got to enjoy the full daylight views before seeing the sun set and the night sky emerge. Dancing went well into the night. …
By Gail Arnold