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Fiesta Ranchera Brings Old Spanish Days to Goleta

16 restaurants will cater to Fiesta celebrants at Thursday's 2nd annual Stow House party

It’s almost time for Old Spanish Days Fiesta, which draws locals and out-of-towners alike in celebration of the heritage that makes Santa Barbara special.

But did you know that if not for some Goletans, Santa Barbara may not have had a Fiesta? That’s right, the party that started it all was held by the Hollister and Stow families, two of the Goleta Valley’s preeminent ranching families, along with other agricultural families in the valley.

“It’s comparable to a barn raising,” said David Bisol, executive director of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and an honorary director of the Goleta Valley Historical Society. “Several ranching families would get together to round up cattle, or harvest crops, and at the end there would be this big potluck.”

Such a party was held in 1892 — in Gaviota, by the Hollisters and Stows. They rounded up cattle, branded them, and then celebrated with food and music. The gathering was such a big hit it spawned several offshoots throughout the years, according to J.J. Hollister, great-grandson of the first Hollister to set foot in Goleta, William Wells Hollister. The Santa Barbara Club, Los Alamos Society, Rancheros Visitadores and Old Spanish Days — although they celebrate different aspects of the area’s ranching-related history — all claim lineage to the party that started it all.

Which is why the Goleta Valley Historical Society and Old Spanish Days will be celebrating the second annual Fiesta Ranchera at Stow House, 304 N. Los Carneros Road, on Thursday. A pre-party, if you will, to Old Spanish Days, clearly the mother of all Santa Barbara celebrations, Fiesta Ranchera is a smaller event, in the spirit of the potlucks hardworking Goleta families held back in the old ranching days.

“It’s an event of our own,” said Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves, one of the founders of the new celebration and a former Fiesta el presidente. As Old Spanish Days Fiesta was originally a money-generating vehicle for the Lobero Theater in addition to the celebration of Santa Barbara’s Spanish heritage, Fiesta Ranchera is a fund raiser for Stow House and Rancho La Patera as well as a community event.

“Last year so many Goletans showed up that I never would have seen otherwise,” Aceves said. “My hope is that we continue with this tradition and get new visitors to Stow House and learn more about the local history.” Fiesta Ranchera, he added, is modeled after Old Spanish Days’ Celebración de Los Dignitarios, which takes place Aug. 6 at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Fiesta Ranchera will feature food from 16 local restaurants including Woody’s BBQ, Fresco Cafe North, Country Meat Market, Ariel Catering, California Pasta, Coldstone Creamery, Pepe’s, Santa Barbara Elks Lodge, Santa Barbara Olive Co., Seasons Catering, Savior Faire, SBB Gourmet Catering, Traders Joe’s and Marmalade Cafe, as well as beer from Hollister Brewing Co. and wine from Buttonwood Farm, Carina Cellars and Cottonwood Canyon.

“We are incredibly excited about co-hosting this event again,” said Dacia Harwood, the Goleta Valley Historical Society’s marketing coordinator. “The opportunity to work with Old Spanish Days on this celebration of our community heritage was a wonderful experience last year. Fiesta Ranchera was a fabulous, rockin’ party and is sure to be one of Goleta’s signature events for years to come.”

The 2009 Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta will be showing off their grace and footwork for the audience at Fiesta Ranchera, guitarist Anthony Ybarra will be playing some Spanish melodies, and local cover band Area 51 will rock out for everyone’s listening and dancing pleasure.

Sponsors for the second annual Fiesta Ranchera include Noozhawk, Bella Vista Designs, Cox Business, Double RC Ranch, MarBorg Industries, the Santa Barbara Independent and

The party takes place from 5 to 10 p.m.Thursday at Rancho La Patera and Stow House, 304 N. Los Carneros Road. Tickets are $55 in advance. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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