On Wednesday evening, the Franciscan Friars of Old Mission Santa Barbara warmly welcomed about 250 Old Spanish Days boardmembers, sponsors, and other fortunate souls to their traditional La Pequeña Dinner before the show in front of the Mission. The dinner was jointly sponsored by the Friars and Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara. It was held in the picturesque St. Francis Courtyard, which is rarely open to the public, and the guests clearly enjoying this very special evening.
Guardian of the Old Mission, John Hardin, OFM, and Executive Director Monica Orozco personally greeted each of the Fiesta-clad guests as they passed through the beautiful Mary’s Garden en route to the courtyard. During the reception, guests mingled while sipping sangria and other libations. From a terrace above, Father John gave a blessing before guests indulged in a delicious tri-tip and chicken dinner, generously provided at cost by Stanton’s Gourmet Catering, and enjoyed wine donated by Sunstone Vineyards and Winery.
The Friars have a long history with Fiesta Pequeña and Fiesta in general. They actually started Fiesta Pequeña back in 1927, and gradually transferred operations over the years to the nonprofit group, Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara. Father Virgil Cordano, longtime pastor at the Mission, was also a longtime honorary board member of Old Spanish Days and directed the Fiesta Pequeña operations for years.
The Mission also hosted La Misa (Mass) del Presidente the next day, which celebrates the relationship between the Old Mission and Old Spanish Days and the Fiesta community. After the mass, the Mission invited all attendees into the Secret Garden for a reception, which is the only time of year the garden is open to the public.
After the dinner, guests joined the festivities in front of the Mission. They, along with other VIPs, walked to their seating via a passage lined with about 130 flower girls and señoritas, who exuberantly greeted each of them while handing out more than 1,000 carnations and gerberas.
Thousands of others were enjoying picnic dinners on the Mission lawn and adjacent Rose Garden. As the sun set, the grand, historic Old Mission was beautifully illuminated. Father John welcomed the audience, stating that “mi casa es su casa, mi mission es su mission,” which drew much laughter and many smiles. He along with Father Dan Lackie, OFM (Pastor, Saint Barbara Parish), Father Larry Gosselin, OFM (Associate Pastor, Saint Barbara Parish), and KEYT anchor Beth Farnsworth served as the evening’s hosts, introducing each of the 18 group and solo performers.
La Presidenta Denise Sanford shared her theme of “Celebrate Traditions,” and pointed to the thousands before her engaging in their traditional picnic dinner while enjoying the show with family and friends.
Dramatic flamenco performances were interspersed with lighter Mexican folklórico dances and singers. Spirit of Fiesta Jesalyn Contreras-McCollum and Junior Spirit Georgey Taupin each gave stunning solo performances. Crowd favorites Zermeño Dance Academy (where Taupin studies) and Linda Vega Dance Studio (where Contreras-McCollum studies and teaches) delighted the audience, as did all the other performers.
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By Gail Arnold