More than 300 people attended the annual Recepcion de la Presidenta on Sunday at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort for a pre-Fiesta celebration held in the magnificent outdoor Plaza Del Sol overlooking the ocean.
A welcome reception was hosted by La Presidenta Joanne Funari, Vice Presidente Ricardo Castellos and the Junior and Senior Spirit of Fiesta, who were all lavishly dressed in traditional Spanish attire and stood proudly in a reception line warmly greeting and posing for photos with guests.
The patio filled up quickly with women dressed in vivid flowing dresses layered with ruffles and decorated with colorful pearls and jewels, and men in short jackets with silver or gold embroidery, white shirts with high-waisted pants, cowboy hats and sombreros.
The 2011 Fiesta grand marshal, 100-year-old Hattie Feazelle, who has ridden a horse in the annual El Desfile Histórico parade for the past 87 years, sat near the reception line with her daughter, Tere Sita Mainer, soaking in the sun and visitors. Feazelle looked radiant wearing a turquoise lace dress with a bright red rose in her hair, and was beaming as she exchanged pleasantries and took photos with guests.
“I’ve been doing this for years,” Feazelle said. “This never gets old.”
A mariachi band was in full swing as guests mingled around the open bars that offered an array of cocktails and helped themselves to a complimentary buffet provided by Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort to sample the tasty and authentic dishes. The menu included warmed tortillas, refried beans, Spanish rice, chicken fajitas and beef tamales.
As guests settled into their places, Master of Ceremonies Paula Lopez welcomed the guests and thanked the sponsors and Old Spanish Days committee members, both past and present, for their dedication in making Fiesta a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Lopez also paid a special tribute to local law enforcement and firefighters seated at VIP tables.
“It’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11,” Lopez said. “We are also here tonight to honor the first response teams in our community.”
Next, Lopez called on Funari, clad in a black silk dress with a white lace shawl around her shoulders, to address the crowd, and she made her way to the podium amid thunderous applause.
“Viva La Fiesta!” Funari said as she raised her arms up in the air. “This year I set the theme of Fiesta to celebrate Santa Barbara. We live in the most beautiful place in the world.”
During her speech, Funari thanked the Old Spanish Days Executive Committee and Board of Directors. saying that without them Fiesta wouldn’t be possible. She also praised local law enforcement and fire department personnel for efforts in protecting the community during the series of fires that racked the area in recent years.
“The fire and police crews rallied together to help our community in time of crisis,” Funari said. “I want to celebrate and honor you tonight.”
Montecito Fire Protection District Division Chief Terry Mc Elwee, Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Michael Dyer, Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District Chief Michael Mingee and Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown each received a plaque of recognition in honor of their resilience and camaraderie in the community. Attendees were asked to stand as Sgt. David Gonzales sang a heartfelt version of “God Bless America.”
After the award ceremony, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider approached the podium for a brief speech and paid tribute to Feazelle and past presidentes.
“It’s an honor to be mayor in this community,” Schneider said. “Fiesta is a celebration of our city’s heritage, and it’s about families coming together, having fun together.”
The celebration continued as 2011’s Spirit of Fiesta Marisa Leon-Haro and Junior Spirit of Fiesta Anais Crespo-Peña joined dancers from the Zermeno Dance Academy at center stage adorned in beautiful costumes. The dancers quickly engaged the audience with their flowing dresses and fancy footwork.
As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, guests crowded onto the dance floor, dancing to a mixture of funk and soul and traditional Spanish tunes infused with modern-day hip-hop spun by DJ Gavin Roy.
The evening served as an open doorway to an array of Old Spanish Days Fiesta events that will occur around Santa Barbara this week. Click here for more information.
Event sponsors included:
» Silver sponsors: Dipaola Foundation, Pacific Beverage Co., Noozhawk, Brown & Brown, the Santa Barbara Independent, the Santa Barbara News-Press, Bank of America, CASA Magazine, the Daily Sound, EventRents, SBClick.com, FLIR Systems Inc., ServiceMaster and Rincon Broadcasting.