Lia Parker
Paul Wellman

It’s been nearly 70 years since a shy little girl named Lia Parker set off dancing down State Street, leading a parade of horses and civic leaders in a celebration of Santa Barbara. The year was 1946, and at the age of 12, Parker was the very first spirit of Fiesta.

Despite her nerves, Parker loved dancing in Fiesta, which she did for three years. “When you start the parade, you feel a certain responsibility in your spirit — a love for your city,” she told The Independent during a 2013 interview. The role of spirit has since become a sought-after honor for many young women.

Six decades later, Parker is still involved with Old Spanish Days — she is this year’s Grand Marshall, and she will participate in Garden Court’s Fiesta kick-off celebration, which takes place this Thursday. Parker will perform along with 2014’s spirit and junior spirit, Talia Ortega Vestal and Natalie Mowers, respectively. The party includes food and drinks, such as tacos, chips and salsa, guacamole, horchata and margaritas, and dance performances by the Linda Vega Dance Studio. —Michelle Drown


The free event takes place Thursday, July 24, 6-8 p.m., at Garden Court (1116 De la Vina St.). For more information, call 884-0095.


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