Teresa Kuskey Nowak was announced as the next Saint Barbara for Old Spanish Days Fiesta during an event on Thursday afternoon at the A.C. Postel Rose Garden near the Santa Barbara Mission.
After some introductory remarks from Old Spanish Days board member and 2007 Saint Barbara Thea Palencia, Ms. Nowak emerged from behind the rose bushes wearing a white dress, scarlet cape, gold crown, and holding a golden palm frond and chalice in her hands.
Ms. Nowak told the News-Press that she was “honored” and “surprised” to be chosen as this year’s Saint Barbara, and that portraying the patron saint has been a long time ambition of hers.
“It’s something I grew up wanting to be. She portrays a very strong woman and in our community right now we need the strength,” she said.
Saint Barbara was a virgin martyr of the third and fourth centuries when Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire. Her pagan father kept her imprisoned in a tower to preserve her honor, but he beheaded her after she confessed to being a Christian. As her father made his way home after killing her, he was struck by lightning and died. Ms. Palencia stated that this made Saint Barbara the patron saint of firefighters, architects, stonemasons, sailors, soldiers handling explosives, and protection against lightning.
For five years, Ms. Nowak has been a member of Reina del Mar Parlor No. 126, the local Native Daughters of the Golden West chapter that annually chooses a woman to portray Saint Barbara during Fiesta activities.
According to the Old Spanish Days website, Saint Barbara makes appearances at Fiesta events like La Fiesta Pequena, Las Noches de Ronda, and the Historical Parade, during which she rides on a float sponsored by the Native Daughters.
For more, see Friday’s News-Press.