The Children’s Fiesta Parade, now in its 90th year, returned to Santa Barbara for the first time since 2019 on Saturday. The parade was led by the Spirit of Fiesta Tara Mata and Junior Spirit of Fiesta Layla Gocong.
“The atmosphere was festive, fun and spirited! Everyone was in great spirits and the weather was perfect. Everyone was anxious to see their little ones dress up or walk with their little ones in the parade, with flowers and confetti along the way,” said Parade Coordinator Michelle McDonnell, recreation supervisor of community services for the Santa Barbara Parks and Rec. Dept. “Wherever you went you heard laughter and fun being had by all.”
The parade has been a community tradition for generations of children. Each year, new families join families who have proudly participated in the Children’s Fiesta Parade for more than five generations.
“It went very, very well. We had over 1,900 participants and 80 entries. It was a beautiful day along the waterfront here in SB. It made for a great festive event. It was toward the end of the week when everyone had a good time celebrating. Great colors, great spirits, lots of children and families. The young ladies are wearing their dancing costumes: twirling, dancing, and handing out flowers. Everything is non-motorized. Nice homemade floats, which usually had a strong man behind pulling them. There were lots of animals: goats, chickens, geese and more,” said Ms. McDonnell.
This year, instead of the traditional route up State Street, an alternate route was pursued up Cabrillo Blvd. from Garden St. to Calle Puerto Vallarta, where each child who participated received an ice cream treat sponsored by MarBorg Industries. The route change was due to restaurants on State Street still having side cafes, a holdover from the height of the pandemic.
“We got great feedback on the location. The location was more spacious and open with the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. Everyone was gearing up ready to go early this morning,” said Ms. McDonnell.
Parents, families and friends create and decorate their own floats, carts and wagons for their children.
The News-Press asked Ms. McDonnell how it felt to be back in person on Saturday for the first time in two years: “Wonderful! Everyone was in such great spirits after being cooped up the last two years. Generations of families have entered. It was a great opportunity for everyone to get out on a beautiful Saturday morning and get dressed up. Everyone was proud to be a part of the parade whether as a participant or a spectator.”
The News-Press asked Ms. McDonnell if there were any notable or favorite floats: “There were several with so much work put into them. Some were more sizable than others, but all floats were so creative not one float was more of a showstopper than another. Some of the smaller wagons were the cutest ones, with the children asleep in the float and their cowboy boots peeking over the side.
“I think what’s important was the fact that there was so much excitement and energy put into this event because we know how much people wanted to get out of the house and celebrate the culture of Santa Barbara and represent Santa Barbara well. Santa Barbara is a melting pot of culture and I think this week really showed that,” said Ms. Mc Donnell.