Dennis Rickard, the 2014 Old Spanish Days’ El Presidente, died on December 13 at age 62 due to complications from a serious infection. He followed his father’s footsteps in leading Santa Barbara’s annual Fiesta celebration — the late John T. Rickard had twice served as El Presidente in the 1940s — and was a descendant of José de la Guerra, the last commandante of the Presidio and a patriarch of early Santa Barbara.
Rickard grew up on the family’s ranchos near Los Alamos and knew many of the riders in the Fiesta parade, which he helped organize for more than a dozen years. He was a trained CPA and brought the event’s costs down by 20 percent over time, wrote Erin Graffy in an Independent article, as well as raising a record amount for Fiesta in 2012. Rickard was instrumental in Old Spanish Days’ first-time entry into Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade this past New Year’s Day; portraying the father of the bride in the De la Guerra/Robinson wedding party, he rode on his grandfather’s saddle, decorated with nearly 2,000 pieces of silver. He also advocated successfully in 2012 to have Santa Barbara’s new airport terminal named after his father, the visionary mayor and judge John T. Rickard, who accomplished the feat of having the airport in Goleta annexed to the City of Santa Barbara.