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Start the dance: Thursday night’s Fiesta ends with Noches de Ronda

Grupo Quetzalcoatl performs "El Son de La Negra" at Noches de Ronda on Thursday at the Courthouse Sunken Garden.  NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

Grupo Quetzalcoatl performs “El Son de La Negra” at Noches de Ronda on Thursday at the Courthouse Sunken Garden.
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

Noches de Ronda, one of Old Spanish Day’s oldest traditions, opened for a three-night run at the Courthouse Sunken Garden on Thursday.

A two-hour program of flamenco and folklorico dance and music is a treat for both the ear and eye and represents the differing Latin influences on Santa Barbara history, from the Spanish explorers to the Mexican and Californio residents.

No matter the origin, the evening is filled with stunning outfits and poetic dancing. The Sunken Garden fills with families and friends, sitting in beach chairs and covered in blankets against the damp night air.

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Romance in the Air: Sunday’s Fiesta Party welcomed this year’s El Presidente, Cas Stimson

2015 El Presidente Cas Stimson, second from left, greets guests at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort for the annual La Recepción del Presidente to celebrate the upcoming Fiesta week. MICHAEL MORIATIS/NEWS-PRESS

2015 El Presidente Cas Stimson, second from left, greets guests at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort for the annual La Recepción del Presidente to celebrate the upcoming Fiesta week.
MICHAEL MORIATIS/NEWS-PRESS

A perfect late afternoon turned into a warm Sunday evening, the right weather to unofficially kick off the 91st annual Old Spanish Days, La Recepción del Presidente.

This event, a gala dinner with entertainment at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, honored the current El Presidente, Cas Stimson, as well as past Presidents, board members, donors and sponsors. Around 450 were in attendance, with many turned away at the door, and El Presidente himself alluded to this as a sign of a very successful Fiesta to come. There’s never been as many Flower Girls as this year, ticketed events are sold out, and other indicators are looking toward a very busy year.

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El Presidente introduced for Old Spanish Days

The Old Spanish Days board of directors gathers Wednesday at El Paseo. NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

The Old Spanish Days board of directors gathers Wednesday at El Paseo.
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

The Old Spanish Days board of directors doesn’t keep to tradition when choosing a location for its December holiday party, but this year that changed in keeping with a major announcement.

The organizers went back to El Paseo, the location of many an early Old Spanish Days celebration, and the old location of the organization’s office, to celebrate the naming of 2015’s El Presidente, take an official photo of the new board, and to announce that, for the first time ever, Old Spanish Days will be represented in the upcoming Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

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Love and death in Santa Barbara: A perfect ‘Carmen’ for Fiesta time

Brianna Hunter as Carmen and Brett Payne as Don Jose star in the Music Academy of the West's production of "Carmen"

Brianna Hunter as Carmen and Brett Payne as Don Jose star in the
Music Academy of the West’s production of “Carmen”

It was an idea that was strangely overdue, this production of “Carmen” in the middle of Fiesta. It only took the Music Academy of the West and Old Spanish Days to agree to work together and suddenly it seemed an obvious thing. Set one of the world’s most popular operas in Santa Barbara during the year the opera was premiered (well, give or take a year), and end the performance with a re-creation of an authentic fiesta: you can’t really miss, not when some in the audience are dressed similarly to people onstage.

Friday night’s performance was one of only two (the other being Sunday), making this “Carmen” a must-see in the arts community.

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Old Spanish Days: Kids to rule today’s El Desfile de los Niños

The Marquez family float will be near the head of today's Children's Parade.STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS

The Marquez family float will be near the head of today’s Children’s Parade.

STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS

The Historical Parade on Friday may have the horses, the carriages and all the regalia, but today’s Children’s Parade has all the cuteness.

The 84th annual El Desfile de los Niños starts above Victoria Street at 10 a.m. and continues down State Street, where the participants’ final destination at Ortega Street awaits: free ice cream, graciously supplied by sponsors Marborg and Wood-Claeyssens Foundation.

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Old Spanish Days: Mass Appeal: Fiesta’s Thursday begins with Mass at the Mission

The chapel at the Santa Barbara Mission is filled Thursday for the Fiesta president's Mass, or La Misa del Presidente.

The chapel at the Santa Barbara
Mission is filled Thursday for
the Fiesta president’s Mass, or
La Misa del Presidente.

A crowd of devout Catholics, supporters of Old Spanish Days, curious tourists and others filled the Mission’s chapel Thursday for a Mass to open the first full day of Fiesta.

The night previous, the steps outside the chapel had been host to music and dancing in the official kickoff party, but Thursday morning’s traditional La Misa del Presidente was a quiet affair, although punctuated with hymns and grand organ music.

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Old Spanish Days: Old and new joining in Fiesta Parade

Today marks one of Old Spanish Days’ most popular events, the annual El Desfile Historico.

Celebrating its 90th year just like the Fiesta itself, the parade is a chance for participants to dress in their finest outfits, whether it be Californio, Spanish, or Western, and travel State Street on horseback or in carriages.

With 600 to 700 horses involved, the Fiesta Parade is one of the largest equestrian parades in the country. At least half of the horses come from Santa Barbara County.

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