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Get to Know 2019’s Fiesta Luminaries

Short Chats with La Presidente, the Spirits, Saint Barbara, and Honored Vaqueros

Photo: Paul Wellman2019 La Presidenta Barbara Carroll

 La Presidenta, Barbara Carroll

How did you choose this year’s theme, Spirit of Community? What does it mean to you personally, and why is it significant to this particular Fiesta?  I thought about what made Fiesta special to me, and it’s the way the entire community comes together to put on and participate in Fiesta. This year, I am trying to focus on the volunteerism that makes Fiesta work. We are also shining a spotlight on the role that the two mercados play in providing a fundraising platform for approximately 40 nonprofits. Fiesta is integral to many of the organizations that provide important services and opportunities in our community.

What has changed about Fiesta over the years? What has remained constant?  A lot has changed since my involvement as a flower girl in the late 1970s and when I first started volunteering in the mid-1980s. Society is more regulated and complicated, so we have to run Old Spanish Days like the nonprofit corporation it is, while in the past a handshake was all you needed. 

What hasn’t changed is the goal of providing a wonderful festival for the entire community that celebrates our shared heritage. We still have one of the largest equestrian parades in the country, we throw great parties rich in local history and tradition, we have amazing dancers performing all over town, and we provide entertainment at the mercados every day and evening. There are so many ways to join in the fun, and much of it is free to the community.

What event do you look most forward to each year?  I am most excited about our parade. I have always loved it, and I am very excited to be in it this year. I’ve learned to ride so I can be on horseback. I also enjoy all of the events with the little kids ​— ​they have such joy and such fun during Fiesta that it makes it fun for everyone around them.


Photo: Paul WellmanSpirit of Fiesta 2019 Sophia Cordero

Spirit of Fiesta, Sophia Cordero

What does it mean to you to be named the 2019 Spirit of Fiesta?  It’s both an honor and a privilege. It may sound cliché, but it truly is a dream come true. I am grateful for the opportunity to represent our beautiful city this year.

What song did you perform your winning dance to?  “Sal de Cai,” or “Salt of Cai.” (Cai is short for Cadiz, which is a coastal region in Spain.) This was the first song I listened to when I was going through the process of selecting music. The powerful vocals and the musicality really captured me.

What dancers do you admire?  I admire Daniela Zermeño. She inspires me not only as a dancer but also as a person. Other flamenco artists I admire include Alfonso Losa, Domingo Ortega, and Águeda Saavedra. I’ve been fortunate enough to take classes from these artists. Their unique styles and creativity motivate me to grow as a dancer.

What advice do you have for younger dancers aspiring to become a Spirit of Fiesta?  I would tell younger dancers to stay focused on their goal, never give up, have fun, and most importantly listen to their heart. Don’t be scared to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I believe great things always happen with hard work and dedication.


Photo: Paul Wellman2019 Junior Spirit Paloma Valenzuela

Junior Spirit of Fiesta, Paloma Valenzuela

What does it mean to you to be named the 2019 Junior Spirit of Fiesta?  My sisters and I have been dancing for seven years, and watching my sisters go through the process has shown me how much hard work and dedication goes into it. Now that I have the opportunity to be the Junior Spirit of Fiesta, it means so much to me to be able to share it with my family and community.

What song did you perform your winning dance to?  “De Santiago a la Plazuela.” I chose this song with my director Daniela Zermeño because I really loved that the first part of the music allowed me to show my technique and skill, while the second part of my song was fun and upbeat.

What dancers do you admire?  The dancers that I admire the most are Daniela Zermeño, my dance teacher, and Sophia Cordero, the Spirit of Fiesta. Daniela is a great mentor ​— ​she is supportive and such a beautiful dancer! Sophia is such a kind person inside and out ​— ​she is loving and an amazing performer!

What advice do you have for younger dancers aspiring to become a Spirit of Fiesta?  What a great question! The most important thing that I would say is to have dedication and passion for whatever you want to achieve and to never give up on yourself!


Photo: Paul Wellman2019 Saint Barbara Debra Fedaleo

Saint Barbara, Debra Fadaleo

What did you do to prepare for your role as Saint Barbara?  I prepared myself in several ways. I studied California history for many years and found that the Native Daughters of the Golden West (NDGW) was a perfect fit for me. I joined the NDGW Reina del Mar Parlor #126 in 2001. I also learned about the historical dances of early California and took lessons, and I now perform with Baile de California, a historical dance group. I also volunteer for Fiesta, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Maritime Museum.

What is something you learned about Saint Barbara that intrigued or inspired you?  The thing that inspired me about Saint Barbara is that even through the outrage of her father and her torture and death, she kept her faith. She stood strong for what she believed in.

Please explain a little bit about Saint Barbara’s traditional clothing. What is its history and significance?  According to legend, Saint Barbara was the beautiful daughter of a pagan father who kept her guarded and locked in a tower to protect her from the outside world. She eventually professed her Christianity and offered herself completely to the Lord, choosing a life of consecrated virginity. The white gown symbolizes this virgin purity. The scarlet cape is the color of Christian martyrs. It also symbolizes the blood of Christ. The golden crown tells us that she was the daughter of nobility.


Photo: Paul Wellman2019 Old Spanish Days Honorary Vaqueros John and Brandy Banquinho

Honored Vaqueros, John and Brandy Branquinho

John and Brandy Branquinho both hail from ranching and farming families with California roots that stretch back centuries. John is a third-generation Californian whose family came to the Santa Maria Valley in the 1800s. He was raised in Garey. Brandy’s line goes five centuries back; her great-great-great grandfather was José Francisco Ortega, the first captain of the Santa Barbara Presidio. She was raised in Los Alamos, where the couple lives today. Both have been competing in the Fiesta Rodeo since their teens and continue to pass along the Western way of life to their three sons and nine grandkids.

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