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The Best Things in Fiesta Are Free

But Don’t Bring Your Cat to the Parade

Children's Fiesta Parade 2018 | Credit: Nancy Rodriguez

The best thing about Fiesta is that so much of it doesn’t cost a dime. 

You can watch the big lollapalooza parade from a State Street curbstone, and it doesn’t cost a cascaron. Hundreds of horses and battalions of paraders brighten your day, and no one passes the hat.

You can spread a blanket on the courthouse lawn and romanticize under the moon while dancers do the shawl step. Free, free, free! Let the kids romp around, and if they’re ornery enough, no one would think about trying to capture one.

Munch on your homemade tacos. Sip from your Thermos of margaritas. Kick off Fiesta watching the Old Mission singing and dancing extravaganza, starring the Mission padres mispronouncing Spanish. (Father Virgil, we miss you.)

At least that’s the way it was then, and probably still is for young families. 

Back then, the world was young, the kids were small, and we were just scraping by. (Angela hadn’t started teaching at Dos Pueblos.) Her sister Luzmila had come to live with us in Goleta, was working, and needed a car.

I made a quick ― too quick ― purchase of a candy-colored 1954 Chevy at an upper State Street gas station. We still tell stories of the toxic cloud of exhaust it emitted when she took it to get a driver’s license. And how the windshield wipers failed halfway through her test when a sudden rain slammed Santa Barbara.

I’d paid a couple of hundred dollars for the car, which is probably worth $50,000 today ― wherever it is, if it still exists.

Another free, fun Fiesta event is the charming Children’s Parade. We dressed the kids in their most festive costumes and ― another of my mistakes ― decided to have one of them hold our white cat, Jackson.

The parade started with a bang of drums and clash of instruments. Jackson was gone in a flash of fur. The parade ruined for the kids, we spent the rest of the day searching the downtown for poor Jackson. Wilted, the kids collected dripping ice cream cones at the finish line, and we climbed back in the candy-colored, fuming Chevy. 

But after dinner we got back in the car and headed downtown for one last low-percentage search. The poor cat must be scared out of all its nine lives, I figured. But wait! What’s that flash of white over there on Chapala Street? The kids leaped from the car, waving off the toxic fumes, and gathered Jackson in their loving arms.

I forget what eventually became of Jackson. He was just one of a passing parade of cats that found their way to our busy house and, when the time was right, found their way out again, their bellies full and our lives enriched.

Today, my nest is empty, except for a black ball of feline fur named Figaro, who adopted me years ago and will not be going to Fiesta, thank you.

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