Friday, February 23 , 2018, 2:10 am | Fair 49º

 
 
 
 

Fiesta Goes Wild with Celebración de Los Dignatarios at Santa Barbara Zoo

Among the event's dignitaries is Terry Daly, celebrating his 92nd birthday and who served as El Presidente in 1966

Father Larry Gosselin, left, Old Spanish Days honorary board director, new Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, Vice Presidente Rhonda Ledson Henderson and El Presidente J.C. Gordon celebrate the spirit of Fiesta with more than 1,000 other attendees at the annual Celebración de Los Dignatarios hosted by the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Father Larry Gosselin, left, Old Spanish Days honorary board director, new Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, Vice Presidente Rhonda Ledson Henderson and El Presidente J.C. Gordon celebrate the spirit of Fiesta with more than 1,000 other attendees at the annual Celebración de Los Dignatarios hosted by the Santa Barbara Zoo. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

The spirit of Fiesta heated up on Thursday with more than 1,000 revelers taking the weeklong festivities to the wild side at the annual Old Spanish Days Celebración de Los Dignatarios hosted by the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Guests adorned in fashionable Fiesta attire and casual ranch digs eagerly made their way up the scenic tree-lined walkway to the top of the grassy knoll overlooking the ocean with spectacular mountain views.

Rich Block, CEO of the Santa Barbara Zoo for more than 18 years, smiled, waved and welcomed visitors, friends and community leaders to one of the year’s biggest events held at the zoo.

“This tremendous event represents a time-honored relationship between Old Spanish Days and the zoo,” Block said. “It’s a great night to celebrate Fiesta with our community, visitors, donors and sponsors who helped us keep this special event going. This event just gets better and better each year.”

As the sun set over the vast open landscape, the populous gathered to enjoy a wide range of tasty appetizers from the Central Coast’s finest eateries, savoring a unique variety of wines and tequila while strolling the surrounding lush gardens.

Guests also seized on the uniqueness of the night to catch a glimpse of the zoo animals, while others danced near the center stage to the pop, rock and soul tunes spun by DJ Hecktik.

In tribute to the history of Old Spanish Day’s Fiesta, which originated in 1924, past and present dignatarios mingled with the elated crowed of partygoers dressed in Spanish, Mexican and Northern American attire reminiscent of the rancho period era spanning back to the 1800s, when pioneers settled in Santa Barbara.

Presiding among the dignitaries was the youngest El Presidente ever to hold the post, Terry Daly, who served as the grand master of ceremonies in 1966 at age 42.

Spirit of Fiesta Alexis Simentales and 1966 El Presidente Terry Daly, celebrating his 92nd birthday. At right, Daly in 1966. Click to view larger
Spirit of Fiesta Alexis Simentales and 1966 El Presidente Terry Daly, celebrating his 92nd birthday. At right, Daly in 1966.  ((Fritz Olenberger and Terry Daly courtesy photos))

Daly said he was delighted and overjoyed to celebrate his 92nd birthday and commemorate his 50th anniversary at the Fiesta parade as past El Presidente.

He looked both regal and joyful surrounded by his wife, Jo, and friends and family members, and received a heartfelt welcome from El Presidente J.C. Gordon. Birthday wishes, hoots, salutations and cheers were given by onlookers in recognition of the historic occasion.

Now the oldest living El Presidente, Daly’s eyes sparkled brightly as he shared one of his fondest memories with Noozhawk.

“‘God in his heaven, all’s right with the world’ was part of my opening comments at Fiesta Pequena opening at the Fiesta 1966,” Daly shared. “There was a full August moon that night because in those days, Fiesta was always scheduled to coincide with the full moon of August.”

Father Larry Gosselin, who has participated in Old Spanish Days Fiesta traditions as co-host of Fiesta Peuena since 2012 and as an honorary director on the board of Old Spanish Days, shared a warm hug with his dear friend and shared his sentiments of the birthday boy.

“It is such a privilege to know this man,” Gosselin said. “Terry celebrated his 92nd on the night of Celebración de Los Dignatarios. This is the same number years of Old Spanish Days. What a joy to have him here at this celebration, and we wanted to honor him.”

As the evening progressed, the energy of the crowed heightened to roars of laughter, with an abundance of smiles and shouts of “Viva la Fiesta!”

Father Gosselin summed up the spirit and special qualities of the evening.

“I personally really love Celebración de Los Dignatarioss, as it is such a celebration of music and love, and truly celebrates in song and dance the joy that is Old Spanish Days. I love to get out and dance, and I find this such a respectful and loving way of celebrating together all that we are as friends who love to have a good time and truly enjoy each other in a very healthy, respectful and good way.”

Click here for more information about Old Spanish Days.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

From left, Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen, Santa Barbara Zoo CEO Rich Block, Montecito Bank & Trust COO George Leis and Randy Weiss, vice president of community relations for Union Bank. Click to view larger
From left, Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen, Santa Barbara Zoo CEO Rich Block, Montecito Bank & Trust COO George Leis and Randy Weiss, vice president of community relations for Union Bank. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)
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