Co-emcees Father Larry Gosselin, OFM and KEYT anchor Beth Farnsworth | Credit: Fritz Olenberger

On Wednesday July 31, thousands flocked to the Old Mission Santa Barbara for Fiesta Pequeña, a magical evening of dance, song, and community celebration.

Many families arrived early for a picnic dinner on the Mission grounds before the sun set, the historic Mission was illuminated in breathtaking fashion, and the spectacular show began. A few hundred VIPs passed through long lines of colorfully attired ninos de las flores, who exuberantly greeted them with shouts of “Viva La Fiesta” and fresh cut flowers.

Co-emcee Father Larry Gosselin, OFM, captured the spirit of the evening with a quote from the late Father Virgil Cordano, “A time of Fiesta is a time of joy.” Co-emcee Beth Farnsworth echoed this, talking about the joy of seeing friends, neighbors, colleagues and others come together at this historic landmark. Father Larry then quoted from the Lion King: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?,” to roaring shouts and applause.

Mayor Cathy Murillo welcomed the crowd and shared how wonderful it is celebrate the Spanish, Mexican, Californio, and Chumash culture and history here.

One of the highlights was witnessing the tradition of the opening of the Mission doors for the emergence of the Spirit of Fiesta in her white dress. Spirit Sophia Cordero gave an amazing performance, as did Junior Spirit Paloma Valenzuela. Cordero, who just finished 11th grade at Santa Barbara High School, has been dancing and participating in Fiesta since the age of two and was the 2017 Santa Barbara Teen Dance Star. Valenzuela, who just finished 4th grade at Foothill Elementary, also has been dancing and participating in Fiesta since age two. Both dance at Zermeño Dance Academy.

Zermeño and Linda Vega Dance Studio, from where many Spirits and Junior Spirits hail, delighted the audience, as did all the other dance groups. Dramatic flamenco performances were interspersed with lighter folklórico dances and with singers. A momentary sound system issue didn’t phase world-renowned tenor Eduardo Villa, who masterfully performed Bésame Mucho a cappella.  

The Franciscan Friars started Fiesta Pequeña back in 1927 and gradually transferred operations over the years to the nonprofit group, Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara. For a listing of upcoming events, see the Independent’s Guide at or go to

Old Mission Santa Barbara
La Presidenta Barbara Carroll
Spirit of Fiesta Sophia Cordero and Junior Spirit Paloma Valenzuela
Junior Spirit of Fiesta Paloma Valenzuela
Linda Vega Dance Studio
Folklórico dance troupe
Folklórico dance troupe


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