Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 11:48 am | A Few Clouds 65º


Curtain Opening on 2018 Fiesta Spirit Tryouts

Norma Escárcega, left, and Eve Flores, Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta 2017.
Norma Escárcega, left, and Eve Flores, Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta 2017. (Fritz Olenberger/Old Spanish Days)

One of the most anticipated events of the Fiesta year is happening this weekend as 20 dancers, ages 8-20, audition for the coveted titles of Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta 2018. Tryouts will be at noon Saturday, April 14, at La Cumbre Jr. High School.

For the first time, this year’s Spirit auditions will include a male participant in each of the two categories, one vying to be named Spirit and another Jr. Spirit. In all, 11 dancers will participant in the Spirit category, and another nine in the Jr. Spirit category.

The Spirit of Fiesta tradition began in 1949. The Junior Spirit was first introduced in 1965. The Spirit and Junior Spirits serve as goodwill ambassadors to locals and visitors. They perform at multiple private and public Fiesta events throughout the year.

Traditionally, the Spirit, dressed in white, leads El Desfile Histórico while the Junior Spirit leads the Fiesta Children’s Parade in like fashion.

“It all began 69 years ago with our first Spirit Lia Parker leading the way,” said Denise Sanford, 2018 Fiesta La Presidenta.

“Our Spirits embody the true meaning of Fiesta. They serve as goodwill ambassadors to our community and visitors. They are role models to their peers. Our Spirits are forever part of our Fiesta family,” Sanford said.

The Spirit auditions signify the official change over from the previous year’s Spirits. In 2017, Norma Escárcega and Eve Flores were the Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta respectively.

For the auditions, the OSD Spirit Committee works hard to ensure every entrant has an equal, fair and honest opportunity to be selected that year’s Spirit or Junior Spirit.

Information about those auditioning to be a Fiesta Spirit is a tightly kept secret. Except for name, all information about the contestant is withheld from the judges, who are kept anonymous to assure impartiality.

The interview judges are selected from within the community. None of the judges is involved with Old Spanish Days as a board member or in another capacity.

Every spring, the audition to chose that year’s Spirits is intense as the contestants perform before a lively packed audience.

“The Spirit auditions are so exciting,” said Michelle Bischoff, 2018 OSD Fiesta Division chief for dance and entertainment.

“It is the day that the participant gets to showcase all of their hard work preparing for this performance, on stage in front of the judges and their supporting family and friends,” she said.

The Spirits audition is multi-faceted — an interview followed by a dance performance.

Each entrant is interviewed by a judging panel focusing on the participant’s ability to present himself or herself in a confident manner, including poise, ease of speaking in public, stage presence, sincerity and spontaneity.

In the dance portion of the contest, a separate panel of judges grades the contestants.

Each participant displays her/his ability to improvise within the promenade portion, then dances a solo that is judged for rhythm and timing, technique, interpretation, and appropriate or effective costuming for the selected dance genre.

Several genres of dance can be represented including folklorico, Spanish classical and flamenco.

Old Spanish Days Fiesta is one of the country’s largest regional festivals, and has been an important historic and economic element of the Santa Barbara community since 1924. This year, the Fiesta week runs Sunday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 5.

For tickets to Fiesta events, visit Night Out or contact the OSD office at 966-8101.

— David Bolton for Old Spanish Days.


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