Old Spanish Days kicks of COVID-modified Fiesta with La Fiesta Pequena telecast
Rather than the grand, in-person spectacular performed before a large crowd at the Santa Barbara Mission, Old Spanish Days began this year’s Fiesta with what el presidente Erik Davis called “the Santa Barbara televised event of the year.” The kickoff performance for this year’s Fiesta, La Fiesta Pequena, was broadcast Wednesday night in a program on KEYT Newschannel 3 and showcased a mix of live performances, interviews, and archival footage from past Fiestas.
Because a majority of the local festival has been driven to a virtual format due to COVID-19, the live portion of the televised Fiesta Pequena was performed without an audience at KEYT’s studio on TV Hill overlooking Santa Barbara. KEYT co-anchors C.J. Ward and Beth Farnsworth hosted the program.
After opening prayers from James Yee of the Barbareno Band of Chumash Indians and Father Larry Gosselin, operatic tenor Eduardo Villa sang the first live vocal performance of the evening, with another two from singers Irma Segura and Josue Hernandez presented later in the show.
Mr. Villa’s song was then followed by archival Fiesta Pequena performances by Grupo Folkorico de West L.A. and Sahagun Dance Group from 2018 and 2017, respectively. Other dances from past Fiesta Pequenas included a 2017 performance by Danza De Cota, a 2013 performance by Las Fiesteras, and a 2015 performance by Baile Folklorico “Bell Arts,” and a 2016 performance by Cruz Dance and Entertainment.
The broadcast also featured live performances from this year’s Spirit of Fiesta Alena Velasco, 18, and Junior Spirit of Fiesta Alexandra Nocker, 10. The former danced to Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalia’s “Pienso en tu mira,” while the Junior Spirit danced to “Cambalache” by Fernando Terremoto.
Both songs are in the flamenco style buleria, and the Rosalia song marries traditional flamenco with modern pop music, according to Alena. The Spirit of Fiesta told the News-Press on Tuesday that dancing to an updated take on traditional Spanish music for this year’s Fiesta “is perfect because this year is a little bit different.”
Though much of the program was focused on the music and dancing that is synonymous with Fiesta, parts of it were also dedicated to vignettes exploring other aspects of the festival such as its general history, and the mercados and nonprofits that participate every year except of course, this year. Organizations that raise money through mercados and have lost out on Fiesta fundraising this year include Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the United Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.
Accompanied by his wife Angelique Davis, Mr. Davis gave a live interview part way through the show to say a few words expressing great pleasure at how the reimagined Fiesta Pequena was proceeding.
“When we reimagined Fiesta, Fiesta Pequena, I don’t think I dreamed of anything like this,” he said.
He added, “To me, the beauty of Fiesta is represented in dance, the history, the joy, the emotion, the swirling costumes, and now that we’re able to do it above here on TV Hill overlooking Santa Barbara, it’s just such a treasure.”