On Saturday, August 6, 2010, Santa Barbara's children gathered on State Street to continue another of the City's favorite Fiesta traditions: El Desfile de los Niños - the Old Spanish Days' Children's Parade.
Each August, The City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department organizes the Children's Parade, a Fiesta tradition that began 80 years ago. It's a small-town, local parade that is one of the highlights of the annual Old Spanish Days event.
For many days and months, the town has been preparing for this special day. And on Fiesta Saturday, before the parade begins, people begin to gather near the corner of State and Sola Streets.
You'll see whole families - brothers, sisters,
Groups of friends arrive, dressed in costumes worn, in some cases, by their parents or grandparents when they were young parade participants....
There are community youth groups and organizations who participate every year,
....along with dance troupes and musical groups like our local Santa Barbara Youth Mariachis
If you arrive before the parade begins, you will meet lots of interesting people....you might meet a Mexican charro who has a song in his heart,
some beautiful ballerinas,
....a junior policeman who has a special badge and a silver key (he really did - he showed them to me)...
or even a beautiful girl in a red dress, tossing bright confetti with great Fiesta enthusiasm into the gray morning sky.
All week, you have seen the dancers at the De la Guerra Mercado, at the Mission, at the El Paseo...they are ready, once again, to entertain the crowd...
Parents and sponsors help to put the finishing touches on costumes and floats; musicians tune their instruments.
Everyone waits patiently for the parade to begin....
Finally, after much anticipation, at precisely 10:00am, the Old Spanish Days Flower Girls greet the audience that lines both sides of State Street. The girls toss fresh flowers and greetings of "Viva la Fiesta!" to the crowd.
The children take to the street....the 80th annual Desfile de los Niños has begun.
Local dance schools pass by in large numbers,
having practiced tirelessly for an entire year to prepare for the event. Some of the costumes are made by family members, and others are imported from Mexico or Spain.
We see old friends who participate in the parade every year, like the Danza Azteca from Los Angeles,
the talented Santa Barbara Youth Mariachi group, and
our local Santa Barbara Children's Creative Project.
And there are lots and lots of kids....kids on foot, on scooters, on skates, on floats and in wagons. There are kids with goats, horses, or dogs, or their favorite stuffed animal.
You'll see them with their dads and uncles who pull or push them in floats and wagons, on donkeys and carts, along the parade route. Moms, aunts, and grandmas join in the procession. The whole town cheers for the children who bask in the attention and accolades.
The floats are colorful and imaginative.
The announcer introduces the children and their families, some of whom have been here for six, eight, even eleven generations.
For many, their family's heritage as residents of Santa Barbara stretches back several hundred years. The names of their ancestors are interwoven into the names of our streets and buildings. The colorful legends and stories that belong to our city, belong to them as family history.
These are the grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, great-great-great grandchildren of Chumash, Spanish, and Mexican residents, and of the earliest American settlers, along with families of Italian, Japanese, Chinese, German, Swiss, or Portuguese heritage, and the many others who have come to call Santa Barbara county "home".
Each year, the parade announcer welcomes the newest participants, children who are appearing in the parade for the first time.
El Desfile de los Niños brings young Santa Barbarans into the fold of traditions and memories their families have treasured for generations.
Join us, and you might even see this year's Spirit of Fiesta pass by...
...and a Spirit yet to come, all on the same street.
For more photos of the Children's Parade, click here