Santa Barbara Mission service honors generations
Honoring generations was a key theme Thursday at Fiesta’s La Misa del Presidente service, where dozens of community members gathered at the Santa Barbara Mission to celebrate Fiesta by worshipping together.
Community members gathered inside the Mission sanctuary, which was decorated with sombreros and patterned shawls, to sing together and receive a message from Father Larry Gosselin. Residents from near and far, including one group from Chicago, were greeted warmly by parishioners and participated in communion.
Father Gosselin delivered a message that centered on legacy and generations, declaring that the “the spirit of Fiesta is still here” despite unprecedented circumstances.
“In this time of discontinuity that the pandemic has brought upon us both in terms of issues of health and well-being but also the issue of continuity of passing on to future generations something that we hold to be the very essence of life and fullness,” Father Gosselin said. “Our life is entangled in uncertainty, but in this time, this celebration … what we hope to pass on to others is a legacy of strength and spirit.”
“In our strength of spirit, we have risen to the occasion, as we always do,” he added.
This year, La Misa del Presidente was one of just a few traditional Fiesta events that was not canceled due to COVID-19. Over the course of the past week, the Old Spanish Days organizers made the decision to cancel the Mercado De la Guerra and Las Noches de Ronda out of concern for community safety. Organizers officially closed Fiesta Pequeña to the general public, but a socially distanced crowd showed up anyway and watched from a distance.
During Thursday’s Mass, Fiesta’s La Presidenta Stephanie Petlow delivered a proclamation centered on honoring generations and preserving the legacy of the 97-year Fiesta tradition. Ms. Petlow’s family was present for the proclamation, and her daughters, Michelle Petlow and Louanne Mason, read scripture during the service.
Ms. Petlow said her “heart is full” having her family here to celebrate this week. She added she hopes that other residents will have the opportunity to gather with their families to eat good food, celebrate and keep the spirit of Fiesta alive.
“Family is the most important part of my life,” Ms. Petlow told the News-Press. “My family and our Fiesta family and our Santa Barbara family. It’s just been wonderful to have everybody here. My heart is full, and I’m just very happy that we’re here for Viva la Fiesta week.”
Among the worshippers who gathered for the Fiesta Mass were Saint Barbara parishioners Aida Cordero and Sandy Wallace. Both women reside in Santa Barbara and attend Fiesta events every year.
While this year’s Fiesta celebration is scaled down compared to pre-pandemic years, Ms. Wallace said she was thankful that the community could still gather together for the Mass.
“I think (the Mass) is a very important aspect of bringing our community together,” Ms. Wallace told the News-Press. “We adapt if there’s something we have to cancel; it’s OK. We’re just thankful that we can be together for a moment.”
Ms. Cordero, whose husband is a ninth-generation Santa Barbara resident, said she appreciated this year’s message of honoring generations, adding that preserving the culture and celebration of Fiesta is important for the city’s legacy and spirit.
“The generations and fostering a good love of our community is very important, not only here in Santa Barbara, but everywhere,” Ms. Cordero told the News-Press.
During Thursday’s Mass, all attendees and Old Spanish Days organizers wore masks inside the sanctuary to promote community safety.
On Wednesday, Ms. Petlow released a statement informing the community that three Fiesta performers tested positive for COVID-19. Two of the performers had been vaccinated and one had not, according to the statement. None of the performers experienced any symptoms, and all are undergoing a 10-day quarantine period.
Since discovering the positive cases, Ms. Petlow said all other Fiesta participants have undergone follow-up testing and that no one else has tested positive.
“OSD is committed to the safety of our community, and we wanted to be extra cautious by not having the public at our non-ticketed events,” Ms. Petlow said in a statement. “The county public health immediately started contact tracing, and all follow-up tests for others have come back negative. Please, as you celebrate Fiesta week with your family and friends, continue to think safety not only for yourself, but also for those around you. Enjoy your Fiesta.”