YES, SAINT BARBARA CAN!
The dame to portray the city’s patron Saint Barbara for this year’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta is Debra Fedaleo.
Born in Bakersfield and raised in Santa Barbara, Ms. Fedaleo became a member of the Native Daughters of the Golden West — a statewide fraternal organization of California-born women — in 2011. Eight years later, the opportunity to portray Saint Barbara fell in her lap.
“It was not on my radar,” said Ms. Fedaleo. “I was asked by the Native Daughters of the Golden West. I was honored.”
Legends surrounding Saint Barbara describe her as a saint and a martyr who died for her faith at the hands of her own father.
“She was a strong woman,” said Ms. Fedaleo. “She didn’t let even her family dissuade her.”
Ms. Fedaleo told the News-Press that she grew up Catholic but does not practice anymore.
“I am just a regular person,” she said.
Ms. Fedaleo may believe herself to be just a regular person, but the Saint Barbara wardrobe will most likely make her feel out of this world. Donning a white gown, a scarlet cape and a golden crown, Ms. Fedaleo will carry the martyr’s palm frond and a golden chalice during her portrayals of Saint Barbara.
She will be presented at Fiesta Pequena at the Santa Barbara Mission and each night at Las Noches de Ronda at the Courthouse sunken garden. She will also ride on the horse-drawn St. Barbara float in Fiesta Parade.
Fortunately, Ms. Fedaleo has plenty of practice being under onlookers’ gaze. The new Saint Barbara is a member of Las Fiesteras dance group and Baile de California. In 2018 she danced on a Mission float in the Fiesta Parade.
“I began dancing in 2011, and I started with the Las Fiesteras,” said Ms. Fedaleo. “We do historic dances of California from the 1800s. They’re a mixture of folk dancing and square dancing. They’re dances that the regular folks could all do.”
When Ms. Fedaleo is not dancing, she is helping others dance. She plays the clarinet for the Prime Time Band and the City College Concert Band.
“I started playing when I was in fourth grade at Hope Elementary School,” said Ms. Fedaleo.
In addition to being a dancer and a musician, Ms. Fedaleo volunteers for the Channel Islands National Park and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
Her introduction to the organizations came during her last year as a fourth grade teacher. A Channel Islands National Park representative came to Peabody Charter School to talk to her classroom, and Ms. Fedaleo’s interest was immediately captured.
She asked the representative how she could get involved, and was told there are volunteers. Ms. Fedaleo signed up.
“I work on the whale watching boats,” Ms. Fedaleo said.
Ms.Fedaleo is an alumna of Franklin and Hope elementary schools, La Colina Junior High School and San Marcos High School. She has a bachelor’s degree in child development and a master’s degree in education.
She taught at Peabody Charter School for 14 years before retiring in 2011.
Dancing, playing music, whale watching and portraying Santa Barbara’s patron daint, Ms. Fedaleo is enjoying her life with her family, whom she described as her daughter, son-in-law, sister, brother-in-law, and a 97-year-old father.