La Recepción del Presidente Kicks Off Fiesta Week

20 Past Presidentes and 300 Others Join La Presidenta Barbara Carroll

Spirit of Fiesta Sophia Cordero, La Presidenta Barbara Carroll, and Junior Spirit Paloma Valenzuela | Credit: Fritz Olenberger

Last Sunday evening, more than 300 guests gathered in the Plaza del Sol at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort to celebrate the start of Fiesta and to honor La Presidenta Barbara Carroll and past presidentes.

Guests were warmly greeted by an official receiving line that included Carroll, First Vice President Erik Davis, Second Vice President Stephanie Petlow, Debra Fedaleo representing Saint Barbara, Spirit of Fiesta Sophia Cordero, and Junior Spirit Paloma Valenzuela.

Guests clad in formal Fiesta attire mingled during the cocktail hour in the grand Plaza del Sol. Singer Josue Hernandez, with his mellifluous voice, strolled the plaza serenading and entertaining the lively crowd. Guests were seated for dinner at colorfully adorned tables and greeted by co-emcees and past presidentes Michael Mendoza and Joanne Funari and by Mayor Cathy Murillo. 

La Presidenta Barbara Carroll shared that she chose her theme, Spirit of Community, because of all the community participation in Fiesta each year. She thanked the sponsors, past presidentes, Old Spanish Days boardmembers, and the more than 1000 other volunteers who enable Fiesta to happen each year.

The oldest past presidente in attendance, 90-year old Rudy Castillo, who was el presidente in 1976, took to the stage along with 19 other past presidentes amid roaring applause.

In the rich tradition of Old Spanish Days, the evening featured spectacular flamenco dance performances: solos and a duet by the Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta and a group performance by Zermeño Dance Academy, where both the Spirit and Junior Spirit hail from.

Mendoza shared that Fiesta costs about $1.5 million to put on each year and thanked the many sponsors that enable it to happen. Sponsors for the evening were recognized, including Presenting Sponsor Banc of California, longtime supporters Si, Karen, and Josiah Jenkins (Jedlicka’s), and Jordanos, which has been a sponsor from the beginning — for 95 years. Elements band began the dance tunes and the dance floor quickly filled.

A Santa Barbara native, Carroll is a former flower girl, a Fiesta volunteer since 1986, and an Old Spanish Days boardmember since 2006. She is the granddaughter of Bob Carroll, who started RJ Carroll & Sons Plumbing in 1931. She is a civil litigation attorney at Clinkenbeard, Ramsey, Spackman & Clark.

Spirit Sophia Cordero has been dancing and participating in Fiesta since the age of two and was the 2017 Santa Barbara Teen Dance Star. She just finished 11th grade at Santa Barbara High School, where she is an AP Honors student and served as ASB Vice President and on Varsity Cheer. Junior Spirit Paloma Valenzuela also has been dancing and participating in Fiesta since age two. She just finished 4th grade at Foothill Elementary.

The nonprofit Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara put on this event and runs most Fiesta events and activities. Its mission is to preserve and celebrate the Rancho Period of our history under Mexican and American rule (1820-69). For a complete list of events, see the Independent’s Guide at or go to  

There are a couple of notable events run by other organizations during Fiesta. The Courthouse Legacy Foundation, which funds the conservation and renovation of the Courthouse, has its own Fiesta Party on Saturday. The Profant Foundation for the Arts, which supports area artists, holds its spectacular annual fundraiser, Fiesta Finale, on Sunday.

Send invites to

KEYT’s John Palminteri, Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo participant Andrea Flores, and Mayor Cathy Murillo
Past presidentes.
2016 El Presidente J.C. Gordon and Jamie Gordon
2001 El Presidente Roger Aceves and Debbie Aceves
1976 El Presidente Rudy Castillo and Brenda Castillo
Debra Fedaleo portraying Saint Barbara with Second Vice President Stephanie Petlow
El Primer Vice Presidente Erik Davis and Division Chief, External Relations Angelique Davis
Honorary Presidentes Denise and Tom Peterson
2004 El Presidente Clay Dickens, Lisa Burns, and 1999 El Presidente Scott Burns
Guests enjoy the program.
Guests enjoy the event.
Spirit of Fiesta Sophia Cordero, La Presidenta Barbara Carroll, and Junior Spirit Paloma Valenzuela


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