Fiesta Ranchera Celebrates Old Spanish Days

Event at Rancho La Patera & Stow House Attracts Nearly 1,000 People

Junior Spirit of Fiesta Sarah Naretto performs a rumba dance.
Gail Arnold

The ninth annual Fiesta Ranchera, a fundraiser cohosted by Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara and the Goleta Valley Historical Society, brought out nearly 1,000 supporters to the picturesque grounds of Rancho La Patera & Stow House in Goleta.

Guests mingled while sampling generous tastings from 37 food and beverage purveyors and enjoying classic fiesta melodies and contemporary tunes by Tony Ybarra. In keeping with the Ranchera theme, many attendees opted for western attire, while some donned elegant Fiesta dresses.

El Presidente J.C. Gordon and his beautiful wife, Jamie, were on hand to greet Fiesta supporters. Gordon noted that Fiesta Ranchera “is an event we look forward to each year as it brings Fiesta out to Goleta, which has strong historical ties to Fiesta.”

He explained that he chose this year’s theme “Santa Barbara: the Coastal Frontier” because “one single element has influenced all of the periods of time in Santa Barbara, from the Chumash through the Spanish period and on into the Rancho period, and that single element is the sea.”

After a lovely blessing by Father Larry Gosselin, associate pastor of St. Barbara Parish at the Santa Barbara Mission, the crowd was welcomed by Amanda de Lucia, Goleta Valley Historical Society’s executive director. She noted that it is “really an honor to be partnered with Old Spanish Days to bring Fiesta to Goleta because, really, our two communities are one — historically the ranchos out here in Goleta have been a big part of our history.”

The highlights of the evening were stunning dance performances by this year’s Junior Spirit and Spirt of Fiesta. The Junior Spirit, Sarah Naretto, 10, just finished the 5th grade at La Patera School in Goleta. She has been dancing since she was 5, and this is her fourth Fiesta.

She keeps a busy schedule — when not dancing, she enjoys playing the piano and making movies. For this large party, she chose her “party dance,” a rumba set to “Lagrimas Negras.” She dazzled the audience with her amazing talent, her sweet smile, and her playful spirit.

Later in the evening, the audience was captivated by the dancing of the Spirit of Fiesta, Alexis Simentales, who performed a tango to “Que Bien Te Camelo.” Like Naretto, she chose a lively dance to fit the party atmosphere. Her truly striking talent was on full display in this vibrant, dramatic dance.

Simentales, 18, has been dancing since she was 2½ years old and has participated in every Fiesta since. She is a full-time student at Santa Barbara City College, where she is studying to be a neonatal registered nurse.

She also works as a behavioral aide at Hillside House and volunteers at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department — in addition to putting in long hours of dance practice. She shared that “being your 2016 spirit has been a dream come true, and I’m excited to share my passion with you all this Fiesta.”

The performances of the Spirits recalled the beauty and charm of the Rancho Period of Santa Barbara’s history, roughly 1820-1869, which Old Spanish Days celebrates each year. In this period of prosperity under Mexican and American rule, people resided on ranches with cattle-raising being the main industry. The people of this era are known for their beauty, charm, friendliness, civility of manners, and love for fiestas. Music, dance, and song were integral parts of their life.

After Simentales’s performance, the mood shifted to the present day when the ever-popular Area 51 took to the stage, and Fiesta supporters danced into the night.

Proceeds from this event are split between Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, Inc. and the Goleta Valley Historical Society.

Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, Inc. honors and preserves Santa Barbara’s history, culture, and traditions. Now in its 92nd year, the nonprofit holds a few events in April-June, and a plethora of events July 31-August 7. For more information, go to

The Goleta Valley Historical Society’s mission is to collect and promote the Valley’s unique history. It operates Rancho La Patera & Stow House, which was founded in 1873 by William Whitney Stow, legal counsel for the Southern Pacific Railroad and Speaker of the California State Assembly.

The property is located within Lake Los Carneros Preserve, a 156-acre park open to the public with popular walking trails. The house is also open to the public, and guided tours are available. Upcoming events here include a 4th of July Celebration and the Music at the Ranch free concert series in July and August. For more information, visit


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