Teen-age Fiesteros in 1947, standing, from left: Michelle Woodhouse, now associate minister of All-Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito; Barbara Woodhouse of Santa Barbara; and Patty Van Rensselaer Wilson, whose father was Maunsell Van Rensselaer, former director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden; seated left to right: the late Carol Woodhouse Wellin; Sally Mckinstry Hall of Santa Barbara, and Ellen Rivers Macfarlane of Santa Barbara.
Viva la Fiesta! Although my family didn't speak Spanish, I feel I've always understood those words. I was born in Santa Barbara, and I think they entered my being with my baby inocculations.
My beloved aunt and uncle (Jack & Marjorie Langhorne) built the Ranchería Motel on Old Coast Highway in Montecito, and my parents (Lee and Stella Shell) managed it after World War II. They all dressed and planned for Fiesta, encouraging their guests to enjoy it with them. No wonder my mother still made a point of taking me to the Fiesta parade after we moved to Goleta.
With this background, it's not surprising that I'm less than 2 years old in the picture of my first Fiesta costume. To this day, a walk across De la Guerra Plaza brings back the scent of fresh cotton candy, dry lawn, warm horses in the sun, and people chattering in English and Spanish over the melodies of the mariachi bands.
I first learned not to cry at a surprise thump by having cascarones cracked on my head with a shower of confetti. I was shocked to find out as an adult that"Punch and Judy" were an English tradition -- I was sure they were special Fiesta puppets. And oh, the glassblower! Mama mia, the beauty he produced! Tiny horses, birds, animalitos, flowers -- all for a quarter, the most I usually had to spend. Staying up late for Noches de Ronda was a privilege, as was using Dad's special deer-hunting binoculars to better see the dancers.
I loved dressing up in colorful skirts and blouses, wearing lots of petticoats, and twirling dizzily to see how far my skirts would swirl.
Fiesta was magic, and I was a princess. Someday, I promised myself, I'll ride my own horse in the "big" parade. And I'll have a skirt so long it covers most of my horse, just like the De la Guerra sisters!
I still don't have my own horse, so the Desfile Histörico has had to do without me: but "Viva la Fiesta!" because it has given me the entire panorama of history to enjoy and love.
Marjorie (Shell) Wilser
(born in Santa Barbara, raised in Goleta; graduate of Goleta Union
School, La Colina Jr. High, and San Marcos High)
The year was 1951. Fresh from the East Coast, 15 years old and, well, fresh, I went to the Mission with my new friend, Bonnie, for the opening night of Fiesta.
The previous week our landlords had explained to my parents, brother and me how everyone in Santa Barbara dresses up during Fiesta week. It sounded unbelievable, but I let my mom pick out a full skirt and peasant blouse for me to wear anyway.
Bonnie, a cute little blond my age, was even more innocent than I was. Soon we attracted the attention of two boys. They swaggered over to where we stood, and one addressed me.
"Haven't we met before?"
Immediately I replied, "Oh! What an old line that is!" They left and didn't return.
The scene was forever etched in my memory, most likely because no one had ever tried to pick me up before. It was rather exciting.
I've also never forgotten that night because I truly did not know at the time that it was, indeed, "an old line."
Nancy Molitor Hawks
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