One of the most anticipated and popular Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebrations, the annual Celebración de Los Dignatarios, once again drew a large crowd of more than 1,500 people to the Santa Barbara Zoo last Thursday evening.
A procession of excited attendees dressed in the spirit of Fiesta, adorned in Spanish attire and western wear accompanied by large brim cowboy hats and boleros, made their way past the main entrance, where they were greeted with a hearty welcome from Fiesta Flower Girls.
Nearly 20 flower girls stood beaming in white ruffled blouses and colorful flowing skirts as they handed out flowers to incoming guests and cheered, “Viva la Fiesta!”
“It’s truly a community-wide event,” Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said. “Everybody comes together from all walks of life to enjoy the great company of one another and food — just a great celebration with great music and dancing.”
Dubbed “Fiesta’s wildest event,” the fundraiser benefiting the zoo and Old Spanish Days honors Santa Barbara's elected officials and features live entertainment, dancing and mariachi bands.
Spectacular panoramic views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean awaited attendees as the celebration commenced on the hilltop under a setting sun that cast golden rays upon the assemblage of lush palm and oak trees.
“Just being at the zoo on a beautiful day up on top of the hill and the spirit of Fiesta shining with the sun and then the music — it’s just a whole lot of fun for a whole lot of people,” Schneider said.
Decorative concession stands from 20 local restaurants offered an array of delectable treats as guests mingling on the zoo lawn sipped a variety of beverages, including wine, beer and margaritas.
Attendees got an up-close view of 2013 Spirit of Fiesta Corrie Jimenez and Junior Spirit of Fiesta Kailani Cordero, who were decked out in white flowing gowns that provided a dramatic contrast to the large dance floor of red tile.
As the sun set and the lights of the city lit up the night, the dance floor was packed with guests who danced through the evening to the soulful sounds of the Soul City Survivors.
The annual event has been held at the zoo for more than 20 years, and each year the celebration continues to evolve and grow. El Presidente Josiah Jenkins shared some of the history with Noozhawk and the community-wide benefits of this unique event.
“McCoy, Bartell and Hollister started this event and moved it to the zoo and put it together," he said, "and over the last 20 years it’s been one heck of a great fundraiser for both Old Spanish Days and the zoo — we split the proceeds equally.”
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.