Old Spanish Days: Old and new joining in Fiesta Parade

Today marks one of Old Spanish Days’ most popular events, the annual El Desfile Historico.

Celebrating its 90th year just like the Fiesta itself, the parade is a chance for participants to dress in their finest outfits, whether it be Californio, Spanish, or Western, and travel State Street on horseback or in carriages.

With 600 to 700 horses involved, the Fiesta Parade is one of the largest equestrian parades in the country. At least half of the horses come from Santa Barbara County.

Will Powers, equestrian chairman, helps arrange the groups before they start the parade, gathering everybody at Pershing Park.

Like many involved in Old Spanish Days, his family has deep roots here and his volunteer job during the week once belonged to his grandfather, Wayne Powers.

Aware of its 90th anniversary, the parade will be looking back as well as forward. Grand Marshal Lia Parker was the first-ever Spirit of Fiesta back in 1949. Sixty-five years later she is returning to honor the history of the event.

And in 1949, when Lia Parker danced as the first Spirit, El President Dennis Rickard’s father was El Presidente, a fitting coincidence.

The Rev. Larry Gosselin, associate pastor of Saint Barbara Parish, asked to be in the parade this year and will be on horseback, leading Lia Parker.

“I like how involved he wants to be,” said Mr. Powers.

Spirit of Fiesta Talia Ortega Vestal and Junior Spirit Natalie Mowers also will appear in the parade, along with Saint Barbara Renee Jackman Longo.

Cass Stimson, first vice President of Old Spanish Days, is in line to be El Presidente next year.

“Our parade is based on history and on community, and that’s a rare thing in this day and age,” Mr. Stimson said. “We do not have large corporate sponsors. This parade is about the people and the history of the people who put it together. And this year we are focusing on that as much as we can.”

Look out for six charro groups who play music that causes horses to dance. There will also be sheriffs’ posses, riding in all their glory.

The dignatarios of Old Spanish Days ride in the carriages in the parade, including the mayor and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

And something for next year: On Jan. 1, an Old Spanish Days float pulled by Belgian horses and featuring the spirits of Fiesta, the De La Guerra wedding couple, El Presidente and more will take part in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. It’s a first for Old Spanish Days as it completes its ninth decade.

El Desfile Historico begins at noon today at the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard, heads east to State Street, then makes its way up State to Sola Street.

For more information, go to
http://oldspanishdays-fiesta.org or 962-8101.

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