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Local News

Thousands Celebrate Start of Old Spanish Days With La Fiesta Pequeña at the Santa Barbara Mission

Flamenco dancers, musicians and Saint Barbara wow the crowd in the first night of events celebrating the city's Spanish history


Costumed dancers took center stage Wednesday on the steps of the Santa Barbara Mission to display their showstopping talent and kick off the first night of Old Spanish Days with La Fiesta Pequeña.

Fiesta Flower Girls, ages 6 to 17, warmly greeted hundreds of VIP guests with colorful flowers as the attendees strolled to their front-row seating.

Chairs and blankets on the lawn, stretching down to the Mission Rose Garden, served as the observation post for thousands more watching the historical program.

The strangely stormy weather made for an impressive sunset, and the orange glow illuminated the Mission’s exterior.

Father Larry Gosselin, associate pastor at the Santa Barbara Mission, and this year's Old Spanish Days La Presidente Rhonda Henderson welcomed the crowd. 

Henderson spoke about “unity through community,” this year’s theme selected for the 93rd annual celebration in Santa Barbara. 

Her choice for the theme was partly a tribute to Father Virgil Cordano, who spent his career at the Santa Barbara Mission and died in 2008.

A large poster of Cordano hung on the side of the building during La Fiesta Pequeña.

“He was the true embodiment of unity through the community,” Henderson said.

In anticipation of one of the most popular performances of the night, all eyes moved to the mission’s double doors, which opened to unveil the Spirit of Fiesta, Norma Escárcega.

Dressed in her long, white gown, she entertained the large crowd with her flamenco dance. Her performance to “Buleria del Torombo” earned thunderous applause from the audience.

The Spirit of Fiesta, Norma Escárcega, dances for a crowd of thousands. Click to view larger
The Spirit of Fiesta, Norma Escárcega, dances for a crowd of thousands.  (Fritz Olenberger photo)

Junior Spirit Eve Flores twirled her white dress during her special solo performance and her dance to “Son Caminos Los Olivares” delighted the sea of spectators.

La Fiesta Pequeña, or “Little Fiesta,” showcased 15 dance studios, including Santa Barbara and Los Angeles companies. It included an appearance from Saint Barbara, who was this year represented by Robin Cederlof, a fifth generation Goletan.

The night's musical performances included an appearance by Santa Barbara native Eduardo Villa, an internationally renowned operatic tenor, who sang two songs.

Mayor Helene Schneider gave a shout-out to the thousands of people behind the scenes, as she thanked volunteers who assist with the many community events during Fiesta. 

La Fiesta Pequeña kicks off four more days of events throughout the city, including rodeo shows, free concerts, mercados and parades.

A preview of the events can be found here

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Thousands of people headed to the Santa Barbara Mission for La Fiesta Pequeña Wednesday night. Click to view larger
Thousands of people headed to the Santa Barbara Mission for La Fiesta Pequeña Wednesday night.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

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