Twirl in my blue dress. Run to catch up with the others. Repeat.
Three-year-old Gionanna Gonzalez-Figueroa was busy dancing with her Alma De Mexico colleagues at Saturday night’s Milpas Parade. Gionanna’s legs were having trouble keeping up with the older dancers, but her heart pushed her forward. Gionanna was so focused on the task at hand (twirl, run, repeat) that she was not even aware of the spectators clutching the hearts she was melting.
Gionanna was one of the many kids making the crowd awe and coo.
Siblings Sofia, 7, and Mateo Guillén, 8, rode on the backs of Vespas as part of the Vespa Militia of Santa Barbara ensemble. Their father, Alex Guillén, is the president of the two-year-old militia.
“The main purpose of the militia was to avoid traffic. We all have bigger bikes … but riding them around town … it was getting very hot, and it was very uncomfortable. So we wanted a quick, fast and stylish way to get around town,” said Mr. Guillén. “How more stylish can you get around town than in a Vespa?”
The Vespa Militia has even made trips together to Mexico for fish tacos.
“All you need to do is have the desire to ride, have the desire to have fun, and have the desire to go fast,” Mr. Guillén said.
While Sofia and Mateo were exploring their father’s exhilarating mode of transportation, the La Cumbre Junior High band was clearing the way ahead of the Vespas.
The La Cumbre Lancers lanced the air with their band music, encouraging the crowd to sway and shake their hips. And they did.
A father pretended to be a musical train with his daughters hoisted on his legs. The mother was quickly snapping pictures of the three on the musical train in an attempt to preserve the precious moment in front of her.
Other children around them were attempting to run toward the parade to join it. Mothers and fathers were having a hard time running after their kids to bring them back to the sidewalk. One boy, at about 2 feet tall, flapped the too-big sleeves on his parka as if to sprout wings to fly to the floats. His father ran after him, scooped him up, set him back down … only to have the boy run with the music towards the float again.
Charles Michael Ortega, who has been a music teacher for about two decades, knows the empowering effect of music. It was, after all, the music that was emboldening the kids toward the floats and ensemble. Mr. Ortega was coaching the Lancers marching band Saturday. The music teacher, who’s been at La Cumbre Junior High for about five years, expressed his gratitude.
“It’s great for them to have some experience already when they go to high school. We’re lucky here because we have junior high marching band programs, and it’s not always like that. They have an extra couple of years to get ready for high school,” Mr. Ortega told the News-Press.
Another band that was racking up experience was the Santa Barbara High School marching band, which Mr. Ortega also formerly taught.
Organizing these bands, dancers and more was no easy work.
“The biggest challenge was the lineup,” said Maria Elena De Guevara, this year’s parade coordinator. “Things happen. We had someone go to the hospital so that group had to drop. I had to redo the lineup.”
The three months of hard work, however, paid off when Ms. De Guevara had the final lineup in her hands.
“It feels great. Right now, I’m checking them off. And most people are here,” said Ms. De Guevara. “It’s both businesses and community members. … It’s a very diverse community. They come from all over.”
The Milpas Parade ended with Santa Claus on a John Deere vehicle. Santa left a trail of fake snow behind as he wrapped up the show.