Society Matters | Fiesta Pequeña is a Glorious Celebration of Community

Enchanting Evening of Dance and Song Kicks Off Fiesta

Spirit of Fiesta Tara Mata | Credit: Fritz Olenberger

On August 3, Fiesta Pequeña kicked off Fiesta 2022 to the delight of thousands of community members at the Old Mission Santa Barbara and many more who tuned in to the live KEYT broadcast. 

Many arrived early to enjoy a picnic dinner on the lawn in front of the Old Mission and visit with friends and family, as they had done for years before the COVID interruption. Also prior to the show, the Old Mission hosted a reception in its lovely Secret Garden for 150 supporters of the Mission and of Old Spanish Days of SB, the nonprofit that puts on Fiesta.

On the way to their seats in front of the Old Mission steps, several hundred VIPs were exuberantly greeted by Los Niños de las Flores, Los Jovencitos, and Las Señoritas. These colorfully attired youth, the ambassadors of Fiesta, formed two long lines between which each guest passed, while the youth collectively chanted “Viva la Fiesta,” and handed a long-stem rose to each.

In the air was a strong sense of community and of joy to be gathered again for this incredible evening of dance and song against the glorious backdrop of the Old Mission. Father Larry Gosselin OFM and KEYT’s Beth Farnsworth served as co-emcees, introducing each of the 18 group and solo performers. 

Father Larry, colorfully sporting his brown hat adorned with blue and yellow flowers, welcomed the crowd “back together as family in this wonderful celebration of Fiesta,” and asked “how many people can feel the love?,” to which he received a resoundingly affirmative response. After inviting guests to interlock arms as a sign of solidarity and love, he extolled, “this is our family, this is the love we celebrate.”  

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After a prayer that ended with “Viva la Fiesta,” Father Larry remarked how “there is no more iconic place to be in probably all the world than standing on the stage of the Old Mission Santa Barbara looking at the beautiful people of Santa Barbara . . . this is an incredible community, that is filled with so much love.”

La Presidente Maria Cabrera shared how she is filled with joy as her theme of “Todos juntos en familia” (All together as a family) is what she sees as she looks out at the crowd.

Councilmember Meagan Harmon filled in for Mayor Rowse because Rowse recently got COVID. In a speech that matched Father Larry’s in warmth and enthusiasm, Harmon shared that it was “wonderful to be here on this magnificent stage overlooking the most beautiful city in the world.”

Fiesta Pequeña celebrates, according to Harmon, what is most central to the spirit of Fiesta: the beauty, art, and artistry of the performers. She related how Cabrera’s theme resonates with her because family, community, and joyous celebration are the heart of Fiesta and the heart of the city of Santa Barbara. 

Flamenco performances by the Spirit of Fiesta Tara Mata and by the Junior Spirit Layla Gocong were among the highlights, as was the group performance by Zermeño Dance Academy, from which both Spirits hail. Folklórico and early Californian dance performances were interspersed with flamenco ones and with performances by singers, including world re-renowned tenor Eduardo Villa and 2022 Teen Star SB Melody Hilario. As the sun set and white lights were cast upon the Old Mission’s facade, the scene became all the more grand and stunning.

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La  Presidente Maria Cabrera and Francisco Cabrera | Credit: Fritz Olenberger

La Presidente Maria Cabrera’s daughter-in-law Maria Cabrera, her son Pablo Cabrera, and their children | Credit: Fritz Olenberger
Grupo Folklórico Quetzacoatl | Credit: Fritz Olenberger
Junior Spirit Layla Gocong | Credit: Fritz Olenberger
Gretchen Olenberger | Credit: Gail Arnold
Josue Hernandez | Credit: Fritz Olenberger
2022 Teen Star Santa Barbara Melody Hilario | Credit: Fritz Olenberger


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