Historical Museum Celebrates Fiesta in Grand Style

Annual La Fiesta del Museo Draws 300 Supporters and Raises $100,000

Old Spanish Days El Presidente J.C. Gordon and his wife Jamie.
Gail Arnold

Three hundred supporters of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum were treated to an enchanting evening on Saturday, July 23, at the Annual La Fiesta del Museo held in the Museum’s courtyards.This elegant, annual event celebrating Old Spanish Days raised $100,000 for the Museum’s exhibits, lectures, walking tours, and children’s programs.

El Presidente J.C. Gordon shared how this is “a top-notch Fiesta event” and that the Historical Museum is “the jewel of Santa Barbara.” He related how Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, Inc. and the Historical Museum have a strong relationship and have much in common — “both are working to preserve the history, culture, and traditions of early Santa Barbara.” The museum’s collection includes 80,000 items from the Chumash, Mexican, Spanish, and American periods.

Guests donned elaborate Old Spanish Days costumes, and the Museum’s courtyards provided a beautiful and historically fitting setting for the event. During the cocktail hour in the Museum’s lower courtyard, the Junior Spirit of Fiesta, Sarah Naretto, 10, performed a brilliant rumba dance. The piece showcased her playful spirit and sweet smile, along with her amazing dancing talent.

While Naretto is certainly very passionate about her dance, she also lit up when telling me about her summer adventures — pottery camp soon, and cooking camp and Girl Scouts camp recently. She will enter the 6th grade at La Patera School in Goleta in the fall.

Also during the cocktail hour, Francisco Espinosa Folklorico Dance performed a lively piece, and Mariachi las Olas Santa Barbara provided lovely mariachi music.

The museum itself remained open for guests to enjoy Project Fiesta!, an exhibit running through October 16 that brings to life the history of Old Spanish Days through stories, vintage posters, costumes, photos, film, and artifacts.

A magnificent gourmet three-course dinner by Omni Catering was served in the Adobe Courtyard as the sun was setting. Attractive, narrow black panels were strung over the courtyard from which red chandeliers were hung to illuminate the magical setting. Some tables featured gold lace cloths with sequined roses, while others were covered with delicate, black English lace.

The Spirit of Fiesta, Alexis Simentales, captivated the audience with her dramatic flamenco performance. She chose a lovely alegrías for this formal evening and gave a stunning performance.

Simentales, 18, will be entering her second year in the fall at SBCC where she is studying to be a neonatal nurse. She works as a behavioral aide at Hillside House and volunteers at Cottage Hospital and the County Public Health Department.

David Bolton, the executive director and CEO of the California Missions Foundation, hosted a historical show featuring lovely Spanish shawls from the Museum’s collection worn by dancers from Linda Vega Dance Studio. John Eubanks lead an auction which featured unique items, such as a visit to Rancho del Cielo (The Reagans’ Western White House).

The highlight for many was a lengthy, mesmerizing, and fiery flamenco performance by Timo Nuñez. Among honors Nuñez has received is being recognized as “America’s Number One Flamenco Dancer” by Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance. Elements Band then took to the stage, and guests flocked to the dance floor.

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum, in addition to Project Fiesta!, also currently has on exhibit Hidden Treasures, a collection of the staff’s favorite pieces from the Museum’s collection.

Museum board president Sharon Bradford chaired the event, and director of marketing Dacia Harwood was the event planner.

For more information about the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, visit their site.

For a listing of upcoming Old Spanish Days events, go to sbfiesta.org.

Spirit of FIesta Alexis Simentales and Junior Spirit Sarah Naretto.
Gail Arnold
Junior Spirit Sarah Naretto performs a rumba dance.
Gail Arnold
Timo Nunez performs a flamenco dance.
Gail Arnold
Old Spanish Days El Presidente J.C. Gordon and his wife Jamie.
Gail Arnold
Old Spanish Days board members: vice president/treasurer Barbara Carroll, Sue Schwefel, vice president/secretary Stephanie Petlow, and Renee Fairbanks
Gail Arnold
Old Spanish Days external relations division chief Erik Davis and his wife Angelique.
Gail Arnold
Former Old Spanish Days El Presidente Roger Aceves, his wife Debby, Old Spanish Days second vice president Denise Sanford, and John Corby.
Gail Arnold
Spirit of Fiesta Alexis Simentales performs a flamenco dance.
Gail Arnold
Guests enjoy Fiesta del Museo in the Museum’s courtyard.
Gail Arnold


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