Judy (Guitteau) Pearce rode her first horse,
Stardust, in her first Fiesta parade in 1954.
Her mother bought the Indian costume at a
y wonderful childhood memories of Fiesta start with the first celebration after the war, in 1946. My cousin, Pam Jameson, and I rode in a goat cart that was covered with marigolds for the "Big Parade" and walked in El Desfile de los Nińos. We were 5 and that was just the beginning.
Our mothers had been youngsters when they attended the first Fiesta in 1924 and both had been enthralled with it ever since. Mom and Aunt Helen entered us in the children's parade every year until dance master Jose Manero came to down. Pam and I started ballet and Spanish dance classes in 1949 and for the next few years Fiesta meant entertaining on floats, at the Courthouse Sunken Garden and for the annual pageant held at the County Bowl. The Mexican Hat Dance was our signature number; Pam was the lady; I took the man's part.
The horses were what I loved most about Old Spanish Days. They pulled all the floats and there were many more horse-drawn carriages than today. I watched longingly from Jose's float as riders milled around at the parade lineup. I have always been a horse lover.
My Grandma and Grandpa King had a retired chauffeur friend, William, who came from Pasadena to stay with us every year for Fiesta. In August 1953, he and I stood alone in our big farmhouse kitchen when he handed me a $100 bill and said, "Here, buy yourself a horse." I know exactly how people must feel when they win the Lotto! We had a stable and corrals at our old Montecito home by the Miramar, left from before the family bought their first car. The $100 paid for a package deal: A little mare named Stardust, a saddle and a bridle.
Fiesta 1954 holds special memories. It was my first time as an equestrienne in the parade. I rode to town with my friend Bunny Schmitter and some of the kids from her neighborhood in upper Montecito, by Westmont College. We were all entered in the parade as Indians, riding bareback. In those days the Fiesta horses were stabled at Pershing Park. Stalls, bedding and hay were free to the participants. It was just so thrilling to be part of the horse crowd that included the Camarillo family and their famous white horses. Our horses stayed in town for the whole four days of Fiesta. For La Cabalgada on Friday, State Street (then four lanes wide) was blocked to cars and the horse was again king of the road. Nearly everyone at Pershing Park put on their Fiesta costumes, saddled their horses or hitched them to buggies, and headed out along Cabrillo Boulevard for the afternoon promenade. The informal event had started in the early years of Fiesta to get the horses out for some exercise. It gave bystanders an opportunity to take pictures, visit with the equestrians and pet the horses that had pranced by in the parade on Thursday.
It was fun for everyone. Unfortunately, after the Earl Warren Showgrounds opened in 1958 it became more of a chore to participate in La Cabalgada because the stock had to be trailered in. Slowly the event dwindled to where only a few blocks of State Street were closed for the small number of horses showing up. La Cabalgada was cancelled several years ago and El Desfile Histörico was moved to Friday.
I still love Old Spanish Days! My grandchildren all participate now too, experiencing what will become their own Fiesta childhood memories.
Diane Marks of Buellton sent this photo of her son Dalton, left, and her best friend Judy's son Ricky Cushing, both 2, at the children's parade in 1992.
My daughter started dancing with Rosemary Cruz at the age of 3. Here is a picture of her in Fiesta of 1972 on the Courthouse steps. Pamela was 5 at the time.
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