Friday, August 1, 2008

Fiesta parade draws crowd of thousands


As thousands staked out prime spots along State Street on Friday, a steady stream of horses, carriages and floats flowed along the roadway during Fiesta’s El Desfile Historico, a colorful expression of Santa Barbara’s heritage.
This year’s two-hour parade paid special tribute to the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Navy’s Great White Fleet, which visited Santa Barbara during a trip around the globe as a show of naval power by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Sailors marched along the street or waved to the crowd aboard floats built as replicas of floats that participated in a 1908 parade during the Fleet Flower Festival, an ornate occasion celebrating the naval visit.
A replica of the USS California blanketed in white, orange and red flowers — designed by the Rotary Clubs of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Goleta — deservingly took home the sweepstakes award.
And while she didn’t participate in the Fleet Flower Festival, Hattie Feazelle, known as La Reina de la Fiesta, has been in every Fiesta parade since its inception in 1924 and this year was no exception.
The 97-year-old Queen of Fiesta rode near the front of the procession in the comfort of a carriage, reportedly making this the first year she has given up riding the route on horseback.
Elected officials and community leaders followed shortly in carriages and trolleys. First came Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and her husband, Joe, in a horse-drawn carriage.
El Presidente Tim Taylor and his wife, Perrin, followed suit moments later as a cheer rose from those lining the parade route. Grand Marshal Cheryl Ladd also drew applause and whistles in a carriage adorned with yellow and white roses.
The soft crumple of cascarones, confetti-filled eggs, could be heard in the quieter moments of the event as youngsters showered one another in vivid bits of paper. A cool breeze sent pieces of confetti dancing along the roadway like miniature, colorful pinwheels.
First held 84 years ago, the parade has an unquestionable focus on horses and is considered one of the largest equestrian parades in the nation.
Sheriff Bill Brown was among those in the saddle, leading the Sheriff’s Mounted Enforcement Unit. A short while later, the oldest mounted police unit in the state, the Santa Monica Mounted Police, took to the roadway in trademark black uniforms with white trim.
Assemblymember Pedro Nava made an appearance riding in a horse-drawn carriage, followed by the Goleta City Council and Junior Spirit Ashley Almada, holding a white parasol.
Fiesta organizers also paid tribute to the late Father Virgil Cordano, who became synonymous with the five-day celebration prior to his death earlier this year at the age of 89. A riderless horse walked the route in memory of the spiritual leader.
Santa Barbara City firefighters tugged a steam-powered water pump down the roadway — with two firefighters clinging to the spokes of the wheels and going for a spin — as the parade started to draw to a close.
Enthusiastic members of the Cruz Dance Studio closed out the procession of more than 100 entries as many along the route let loose with shouts of “Viva la Fiesta!”

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