On July 29, about 300 guests gathered in the Plaza del Sol at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort to kick off this week’s Fiesta events. The event honored current Presidenta Denise Sanford and 18 past presidentes during the always lively and entertaining affair.
The event was put on by the nonprofit Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, Inc., which seeks to preserve and celebrate the Rancho Period of our history (1820-69). In this period of prosperity under Mexican and American rule, the people were known for their beauty, friendliness, civility of manners, and love for fiestas.
Guests were warmly greeted by an official receiving line that included Sanford, El Primer Caballero Paul Uyesaka, Sanford’s son Kirby, 1st Vice President Barbara Carroll, 2nd Vice President Erik Davis, Anne Petersen representing Saint Barbara, Spirit of Fiesta Jesalyn Contreras-McCollum, and Junior Spirit Georgey Taupin.
Guests clad in colorful formal Fiesta attire mingled during the cocktail hour in the grand Plaza del Sol while Mariachi Isla Vista entertained. They enjoyed Mexican appetizers and a tasty buffet dinner.
In the rich tradition of Old Spanish Days (OSD), the evening featured outstanding dance performances. Junior Spirit Georgey Taupin, daughter of Elton John’s songwriter Bernie Taupin, delighted the crowd with a Bulería-style Flamenco dance. Taupin, 10, is homeschooled in Santa Ynez and has studied at Zermeno Dance Academy since she was six. She aspires to attend college and become a set designer for children’s TV shows.
Contreras-McCollum then mesmerized the crowd with an Alegíias de Jerez flamenco dance and also performed an Alegrías de Cádiz flamenco dance with a troupe from Linda Vega Dance Studio. She lives in Solvang, was homeschooled, and will be attending the University of New Mexico in the fall. Contreras-McCollum started dancing at age 3 at Garcia Dance Studio and has studied at Linda Vega since she was six and now also teaches there. She was the Junior Spirit in 2012. After college, she hopes to return to Santa Barbara to open her own dance studio.
La Presidenta Sanford warmly greeted the crowd and shared her chosen theme, “Celebrate Traditions.” She invited female guests to take a cascarón egg from their dining table and crack it on the head of a gentleman she liked, as was the tradition in Old Spanish Days. Sanford was raised in Northridge and moved to Santa Barbara in 1982. She has been in banking for 38 years and recently assumed the position of Vice President, Community Banking Manager at Community West Bank. In addition to serving on the board of OSD since 2002, she has been actively involved with many other nonprofits.
Father Larry Gosselin led guests in prayer, noting our community’s precious diversity and precious unity, and that we have a history based on strong traditions. He asked that “we celebrate those traditions with great gusto, great spirit, great love, and great gratitude for all that we are and all that we continue to be.”
Mayor Cathy Murillo presented a proclamation declaring August 1 to 5 2018 Old Spanish Days Santa Barbara, and noted that this is the 94th year of collaboration between the nonprofit Old Spanish Days in S.B. and the City of Santa Barbara. The 18 past presidentes in attendance were called to the stage amid great cheer. An auction followed, and then Elements band began the dance tunes and the dance floor quickly filled.
This fundraising event helps make possible many free events this week. For a complete list of events, see the Independent’s Guide here.
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