Local kids spread Fiesta cheer delivering flowers around town
This year’s Old Spanish Days-Fiesta may not have the buzzing energy from throngs of people crowding into De La Guerra Plaza or a celebratory kickoff performance before a large crowd at the Santa Barbara Mission.
But that didn’t stop local kids from spreading Fiesta cheer on Tuesday by delivering flowers around town through Los Niños de las Flores.
An annual tradition, Los Niños de las Flores involves flower girls and jovencitos, respectively boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 12, and la señoritas, teenagers between 13 and 18, bringing the spirit of Fiesta to retirement communities with flowers. On Tuesday, 88 local kids visited retirement communities like Maravilla in Santa Barbara, Casa Dorinda in Montecito and GranVida in Carpinteria, as well as Santa Barbara City Hall, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department, and the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Under normal circumstances, kids would visit the retirement homes in large groups and enter the buildings to deliver the senior citizens flowers with a personal connection. Due to COVID-19, however, delivery groups were limited to individual families, and flowers were left outside the senior living facilities, the elderly residents greeting them from behind windows.
“Before we would go inside and walk around and hand flowers to all the residents,” said Old Spanish Days associate Shelby Brewer after leaving flowers at the GranVida retirement home in Carpinteria.
“This time we’re at the doors as they look through the glass and wave.”
In an interview with the News-Press, Old Spanish Days el presidente Erik Davis said that the theme of this year’s festival is “spreading joy however we can” amid the pandemic. Though COVID-19 has forced Los Niños de las Flores to scale back, the Fiesta’s el presidente said Old Spanish Days nonetheless wanted to continue the tradition as a way of showing appreciation for the likes of the Santa Barbara City Council, Santa Barbara Police Department and Santa Barbara City Fire Department.
“This year, we just want to say thank you,” Mr. Davis said.
Around 1 p.m., a group of la señoritas stopped by Santa Barbara City Hall to present a bundle of flowers to Mayor Cathy Murillo. Just as with the retirement homes, the flowers were delivered outside City Hall in De La Guerra Plaza as opposed to the usual setting inside the council chambers.
Spirit of Fiesta Alena Velasco, 18, and Junior Spirit of Fiesta Alexandra Nocker, 10, were also present at City Hall as well as during the group’s subsequent visit to Fire Station 1. During both visits, they performed several measures of dancing. There was no music, so the dancers and the small crowd around them clapped in time.
Though they had their preliminary auditions for Spirit and Junior Spirit in January, before the COVID-19 lockdowns, Alena and Alexandra were finally chosen in June, well into the pandemic. Despite COVID-19 dramatically changing this year’s Fiesta and forcing much of it online, the Spirit and Junior Spirit said going digital enables people beyond local residents to see their performances.
For instance, tonight Alena and Alexandra will perform live in a televised La Fiesta Pequeña on KEYT NewsChannel 3 at 8 p.m.
Alexandra told the News-Press that under this arrangement, her family members across the country and in Germany can now see her dancing live.
“All my family that was on the East Coast or in Europe get to see me dance, which otherwise wouldn’t be able to happen, really,” she said.
Alena remarked that this year’s Fiesta going virtual is a change that she never saw as a “negative thing.” No matter whether Fiesta was in-person or online, the Spirit said that she was pleased to be chosen for the opportunity to spread joy through her talent of dancing.
“As soon as I was given the sash, I couldn’t wait to spread positivity and just dance,” she said.
She added that having a virtual Fiesta is “perfectly fine because we can reach more people and spread more positivity.”
Mr. Davis expressed a similarly positive view of the online Fiesta.
“We’ve been able to spread our message virtually, that’s been great,” he said.