The Profant family, from left, Musette, Mignonne, Marie, Michele and Malia Profant Jungart at The Profant Foundation for the Arts’ Fiesta Finale Gala on Sunday at El Paseo Restaurant in Santa Barbara. (Fritz Olenberger / Noozhawk photo)
  • The Profant family, from left, Musette, Mignonne, Marie, Michele and Malia Profant Jungart at The Profant Foundation for the Arts’ Fiesta Finale Gala on Sunday at El Paseo Restaurant in Santa Barbara.
  • Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, left, and La Presidente Rhonda Ledson Henderson.
  • Gary Simpson shows off his hat at the VIP gathering.
  • From left, David Bolton, Donna Long, Herb Barthels and Gonzalo Sarmiento.
  • Opera sensation Milena Kitic performed selections from Carmen.
  • From left, Sigrid Toye, Hiroko Benko and Akiko Kobori.
  • Mignonne Profant with awardees Jill Nida and Gary Simpson.
  • Fiesta ladies in red Julie Ann Brown, left, and Lisa Burns.
  • Flamenco dancers Richard Chavez and Leticia Jimenez.
  • Lady in red Musette Profant.
  • Peter Clarke and Gloria Montano at the pre-party.
  • Fiesta Finale Committee members, bottom row from left: Sigrid Toye, Patricia Hinds, Joyce Shaar, Marie Profant, Mimi Michaelis, Gary Simpson and Jill Nida; middle row from left: Michele Profant, Judy Hill, Dr. Mary Collier and Michael Conner; back row from left: Lisa Artaud, Musette Profant, Richard Payatt and Amanda Payatt.
  • Overview of El Paseo Restaurant during the Fiesta Finale Gala.

iSociety: Rochelle Rose

After five days of nonstop Fiesta reveling, including parades, parties, concerts, dance performances and Mercado munching, The Profant Foundation for the Arts once again presented the last gasp of Fiesta frivolity at its Fiesta Finale Gala at El Paseo Restaurant on Sunday night.

Lucky VIPs enjoyed a pre-gala wine-tasting get-together at Grassini Family Vineyards, just a few red adobe steps away from the restaurant. In line with the Profant Foundation’s mission of preserving Santa Barbara’s cultural heritage and assisting artists in the community through scholarships, exhibits and performances, the gala presented the Santa Barbara premiere performance of mezzo soprano Milena Kitic.

Dressed in a dynamic red, embellished gown, Kitic graciously mixed with guests at the VIP lounge and later in the historic restaurant before her after-dinner performance.

The celebrated Kitic, who made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1999 with the Opera Orchestra of New York, is known worldwide for her role as Carmen. Accompanied by Cheryl Lin Fielding, Kitic thrilled the crowd with selections from Carmen. Other entertainment included Robert Cassidy, a “Painting That Comes to Life!” and performances by the amazing flamenco artistry of Ricardo Chavez and Co. and Kristen and Serge Chmelnitzki, owners of the local Arthur Murray Dance Studio.

“Piano Boys” Rhyan and Zeyn Shweyk, ages 12 and 13 respectively, brought a youthful aura to the stage with their amazing keyboard talent. The Martinez brothers provided serenades during dinner and, later, dancing under the stars.

On hand to present the Fiesta Finale were Musette, Mignonne, Marie, Michele and Malia Profant Jungart.

“We are re-creating the costumed galas and ambiance of the past,” Marie Profant told Noozhawk, “adding tableaux vivant and professional singers and dancers, to not only celebrate the season and the anniversary of our parents meeting at El Paseo, but to inspire others to support the artists of Santa Barbara County with donations to our scholarship fund. Our drive to assist developing musicians, dancers, artists, actors and authors of all ages is fueled by the belief that as we support the lives of artists, they will enrich the lives of countless other people.”

Mignonne Profant added, “In the mid-1970s, the Profant family had the opportunity to see a young Pavarotti perform at a community college.

Opera sensation Milena Kitic performed selections from Carmen.
Opera sensation Milena Kitic performed selections from Carmen. (Fritz Olenberger / Noozhawk photo)

It was such a remarkable performance that my father John (we called him Poppy) was inspired to begin singing lessons again. It was quite unusual for a full-time executive in his 40s to take up operatic training, but my mother, Lyn, always the encouraging educator, was very supportive!

“His love of music was always evident. Often we'd hear him, driving up in his huge Lincoln Continental, with the radio blasting the exhilarating sounds of Placido Domingo and Poppy in full voice — pouring out through the open sunroof. Memories like that are why we celebrate his legacy with live performances of the highest quality.

“We honor not only my father’s love of the arts, but his determination to develop his own talent, and his dream of helping artists of all ages in Santa Barbara.”

Now celebrating its 17th year as a nonprofit organization, the Profant Foundation has awarded hundreds of scholarships to developing artists of all ages and has sponsored exhibits and performances for arts education.

Nearly 100 years ago, the Profant family began its cultural involvement in the Santa Barbara community by helping to launch CAMA, the Music Academy of the West and Old Spanish Days.

The next generations created a charitable foundation in the spirit of generosity established by patriarch John Profant. Scholarships are made available through community support and proceeds from the annual gala.

Click here for more information about the Profant Foundation, or call 805.682.8184 or 805.705.9179.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.