Thursday, July 31, 2008

La Fiesta Pequena kicks off Old Spanish Days


With hues of red, orange, blue and purple illuminating the front of the Santa Barbara Mission, Old Spanish Days Fiesta kicked-off its five-day celebration with La Fiesta Pequena in grand fashion last night.
Thousands sat in lawn chairs and took in the entertainment at “The Little Fiesta,” which was dedicated to the memory of the late Father Virgil Cordano, who was master of ceremonies of the event for 46 years prior to his death on May 22 at the age of 89.

In his place last night was Fr. Daniel Barica and Fr. Richard McManus. The two Franciscan fathers acted as co-masters of ceremonies with KEYT anchor Paula Lopez.
“It takes two of us to replace Father Virgil, but nobody, nobody can replace Father Virgil,” McManus said. “I am sure that he is with us today in spirit. Heck, if you knew Father Virgil, he loved to party anywhere. Viva La Fiesta.”
This Fiesta is Santa Barbara’s 84th, and La Fiesta Pequena, considered by many to be Fiesta’s marquee event, sets the tone for dozens of events that will be held throughout the city over the next four days.
As dance troupes twirled on the steps of the Mission last night, mariachi bands strummed their guitars and cascarones popped in the crowd, scattering bits of confetti in every direction, one wouldn’t know off hand it was two months to the day that Fr. Virgil’s funeral mass was held in the same spot, also with thousands of people looking on.
While that may evoke sad waves of nostalgia in some people, there was little doubt in anyone’s mind Fr. Virgil, wherever he is, was looking on with a smile.
“He exemplified Santa Barbara’s Fiesta tradition of welcoming visitors,” McManus said. “He always reminded us that God likes a celebration.”
A list of Fiesta events is available at

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