El Celebración de los Dignatarios, or “Celebration of the Dignitaries,” brought out 2,100 Fiesta party fans at the Santa Barbara Zoo on Aug. 2. The party provided the chance to mingle with local civic and business leaders, elected officials and Old Spanish Days board members — if you could find them in the throngs of celebrants that crowded the zoo’s lush lawn and grounds.
Delicious appetizers and wines were presented by local restaurants and wineries, including Joe’s Cafe, Marmalade Café, The Pan, Pizza Mizza, Rincon Catering, Santa Barbara Elks Lodge #613, the Zoo’s own Wave Cafe, Beckmen and Brander wineries, and many others.
With a full moon shining overhead, longtime locals reminisced about Fiestas past.
“I have been working with this event for 10 years, and I think this is the best one yet!” exclaimed publicist Jennifer Jimmerson. “It was originally called the Mayor’s Party and J.J. Hollister told me that he started the event when he was Old Spanish Days president in 1992. The party has morphed into the Celebration de los Dignatarios.”
KEYT News broadcast live from the venue and veteran anchorwoman Paula Lopez, a ninth-generation Santa Barbaran dressed in a full-length pink Fiesta dress, was honored for her 15-plus years of service in hosting Fiesta events.
The ever-popular Soul City Survivors was the highly anticipated soul/rock/funk band that lured costumed dancers to the wooden dance floor. Seen shakin’ it were Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez; Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and City Council members Grant House, Cathy Murillo and Randy Rowse; 2010 El Presidente Michael Dominguez; Paul Cashman of State Farm; Montecito Bank & Trust president and CEO Janet Gurufis; and Richard Aull, Yolanda Baptiste, David Edelman, Jan Helsel, Maria Long Ross, Herb Tews, Bill Yule, and many more! Even white-gowned Junior Spirits Sadee Broida and Jesalyn McCollum were spotted swaying and dancing to the beat of non-Flamingo tunes.
The “Zoo Party” as it is affectionately called is presented jointly as a fundraiser by Old Spanish Days and the Santa Barbara Zoo. Old Spanish Days is operated by a volunteer executive committee and a Board of Directors that are responsible for planning and producing 12 major events during Fiesta week and organizing nearly 5,000 volunteers, participants and performers. This year’s executive committee included Ricardo Castellanos, El Presidente; Josiah Jenkins, Primer Vice Presidente; Dennis Rickard, Segundo Vice Presidente; Denise Sanford, Secretaria/Tesorera; Barbara Carroll, Vice Presidenta, External Relations; Stephanie Petlow, Vice Presidenta, Celebrations; Cas Stimson, Vice Presidente, Pageantry; Kevin Goodwin, Vice Presidente, Entertainment & Production; JC Gordon, Vice Presidente, Mercados; and Joanne Funari, La Presidenta Proximo Pasado.
Behind the scenes are many more volunteers who sell drink tickets, mix cocktails, patrol the grounds and help the guests. Friendly volunteer Pam Polan was selling drink tickets at an umbrella-shaded booth.
“I have been volunteering at the zoo since the 1980’s — I guess 20 years or so,” she said. “I just love it.”
Santa Barbara native Gene Garcia donned a 15-foot tall giraffe costume — lending some animal flair to the party.
“I remember coming to the zoo with my father when I was a boy,” he said. “He would drive his truck, loaded full of leftover lumber, to the zoo to help out.”
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