2020 Spirit Alena Velasco and Junior Spirit Alexandra Nocker see their names on the marquee of the Arlington Theatre
Political unrest and public health concerns faded into the background for one Sunday afternoon as two young women took on the mantle of Old Spanish Days spirits.
Recent Lompoc High School graduate Alena Velasco, 18, is the 2020 Spirit of Fiesta and Vieja Valley Elementary School fourth grader Alexandra Nocker, 10, is the Junior Spirit.
This year’s El Presidente Erik Davis met the girls and their families in front of the theater fountain to give them the good news in person.
The News-Press got an exclusive first look at the announcement event.
When Ms. Velasco turned the corner into the theatre, Mr. Davis and his wife, Old Spanish Days spokeswoman Angelique Davis greeted her.
Ms. Velasco bent over with emotion as Mr. and Mrs. Davis presented her with a bouquet of flowers and her Spirit of Fiesta sash.
The Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta are the public faces of the event and represent the “charm and beauty of the culture” of Old Spanish Days.
After an emotional moment with her parents and a quick photo shoot, Mr. and Mrs. Davis took Ms. Velasco to the front of the theater so she could see her name emblazoned on the marquee.
“I’m really happy because I’ve been working for this for a long time,” she told the News-Press. “I tried out two years ago in my sophomore year and it was a really good experience. I took a break for my junior year and I wanted to do it again this year because I’ve fought a lot to be where I am. My sophomore year I had no confidence. This year I had more and I’m glad I did and I believed in myself.”
Ms. Velasco earned a 4.0 GPA for every semester of her high school career and will attend Allan Hancock College in the fall to study cosmetology.
She has been a dancer for 14 years and performed everything from flamenco routines for Garcia Dance Studio to hip-hop sets for her school dance team. She also pursued choreography and singing and volunteers at local elementary schools and convalescent homes.
“In high school I started to appreciate it (dance) more. I realized it was an outlet for me to express myself and get out all my frustrations. It’s always been there for me and I’m very grateful for dance. It just means being happy and expressing yourself.”
Ms. Velasco said it wasn’t always easy to balance her classwork and extracurricular activities.
“My mom is a teacher, so that really helped and she really pushed me because she wanted me to be successful. I thank her for that a lot. Sometimes I’d cry, or I get stressed, but you have to fight through it,” Ms. Velasco said.
“You always see the Spirit and the white dress. I’ve always wanted to do it. I’m really excited to be the Spirit this year because I want to show people that if you build your confidence, you can get what you want and you can achieve anything.”
Alexandra attended her first Fiesta when she was just six months old. Now her name adorns the Arlington Theatre marquee next Ms. Velasco’s name.
Alexandra said becoming this year’s Junior Spirit is a dream come true.
“I’m really, really happy about it. I’m excited. When I first started, my goal was to be a Spirit. As I got older, I thought I might want to start as a Junior Spirit,” she said.
Alexandra has earned awards for citizenship and academic performance. She said she enjoys the challenge of math and learning about California history in her social studies classes. Alexandra practices flamenco dancing at Zermeño Dance Academy and enjoys surfing, playing the violin and acting in her spare time. She also fundraises for Girls Inc.
“I’m bursting with happiness,” Alexandra’s mother Roxanna Nocker said.
“I’m so proud of all her hard work and grateful that my mom, when she was a new immigrant and new in town, got involved in Fiesta, got me involved and that we can continue the tradition,” she said.
Mr. Davis said the Fiesta spirit is closely tied to dancing. This year’s Fiesta theme is fittingly “¡Vamos a Bailar!”or “Let’s Dance!” in English.
“The Fiesta spirit is caught up in dance. It brings forward our traditions, it captures our history. It brings joy to so many people. The beautiful dresses, the music, the swirling costumes. That’s all embodied with the Spirit and Junior spirit who have been a part of this tradition for a long, long time,” Mr. Davis said.
“For me, dance embodies the joy, emotion and true spirit of Fiesta. I am very proud of Alena and Alexandra and look forward to seeing them bring a lot of joy to our community over the next couple of months,” Mr. Davis said.
Old Spanish Days will run from Aug. 5 to 9. Mr. Davis said Old Spanish Days staff are “reimagining,” the event to accommodate social distancing guidelines.