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y first Fiesta memories are of the parade and my pride and excitement as my father, under the auspices of the Rotary Club, marched up State Street in a heavy, simulated conquistador armor costume (we have 8mm movies of this). In those days, most all of the local merchants wore Fiesta garb all week long, and women would have been embarrassed to be downtown without a mantilla, or a shawl and a ruffled dress ... with exotic hair styles. As with costumes today for Halloween, our Fiesta costumes were planned well in advance and we were excited about them. We dared not wear the same one for more than one Fiesta. The men wore sombreros, sashes and tasseled jackets while sporting sideburns and goatees they had started in May or June. There was great enthusiasm for the parade and the other events.

The children's parade created much enthusiasm, too, and it was special to me to be a part of it each year. I particularly remember the flowers -- the hordes of bright red and yellow dahlias festooning the primitive carts and wagons in the parade. I also recall the orange marigolds in the spokes of the modest wooden wagons and tricycles.

In 1940 I danced with the group from my dancing class on the stage at the Courthouse Sunken Garden. I had a bad cough at the time, and one of the doctors at the old Santa Barbara Medical Clinic diagnosed it as bronchitis. But the show must go on, so I danced away into the chill night air well past my bedtime. The next day, my parents thought that dry air might help my cough, so naturally we went to "The Ojai" and Wheeler Hot Springs, the local equivalent to chicken soup in those days. It didn't work and I was later diagnosed as having a severe case of whooping cough. I hope I was not responsible for spreading the disease that year.

As I said, men and boys grew (or tried to grow) sideburns, beards and goatees and mustaches for these few days. It was truly a huge community celebration. As I remember it there were no ethnic or rich-vs.-poor divisions. We all got along well on the streets and at the corner street dances.

Music was also an important part of Fiesta. That included the organ grinders with their monkeys performing for a crowd of standees. They were a great treat for us children and we marveled at the antics of the monkeys.

The mercado (I believe it was called the Mexican Village then) too, was exciting. It was more authentically Mexican in those days, more like a carnival with authentic Mexican toys, food and curios for sale from vendors who must have come up from Mexico for the occasion. My favorite was the Mexican jumping beans. They were truly magical!

Margery (Marcus) Baragona
Santa Barbara


I grew up in Santa Barbara and I have attended countless numbers of Fiestas. I was a flower girl when I was 12, talked into it by a friend from La Cumbre Junior High School. My mother made my costume out of turquoise taffeta and yards and yards of ribbons.

I don't remember who the Spirit of Fiesta was then, but I do remember that Leo Carrillo, who played Pancho on "The Cisco Kid," was our grand marshall. He rode a huge palomino horse with an enormous silver saddle and his sombrero was as big as he was. He grinned from ear to ear and laughed all the time. I was terrified of him!

We assembled in front of the "plunge," or Los Baños and marched up Cabrillo Boulevard to State Street, turned left and continued up State. The freeway in those days was a two-lane highway and the cops stopped traffic for the parade.

Halfway up the parade route we were given fresh flowers. I remember throwing one huge red flower to a woman and the flower landing right on her mantilla.

In those days in the '50s Santa Barbara still had its charm. There were only 25,000 people in town. The university was a small campus way out past Goleta and Isla Vista was a small student enclave. Time has distorted my memory but I will never forget the smell of barbecued corn nor the feel of hay beneath my feet at El Mercado.

Robherda C. Lange
Santa Barbara

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