When I think of Fiesta, the memories come easily. Maybe that’s because I was born in Santa Fe — in 1966, at the Osteopathic Maternity Cradle Home on Don Gaspar Street — or maybe it’s because the annual celebration always reminds me of a wonderful time.
I grew up in the Bellamah neighborhood, spending hot summer days running through sprinklers and squirting the boys across the street with our hose. I was a Kearny Elementary School Raider.
In the late summer, Mr. Aragon, our principal, would announce when the Fiesta Court had arrived for a visit. You were considered lucky if someone from the court invited you to dance. It was such an exciting time for us. To me, the visit from the court always meant the beginning of the weekend for our town to come together and “rid the gloom.”
On the day Zozobra was to burn, we looked forward to getting out of school early to prepare for the evening. It was the late 1970s, and my parents would stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken — they didn’t call it KFC in those days — and head up Piñon Drive to a spot on the hill that overlooked Fort Marcy park.
As the night grew, more cars would arrive. Everyone got along; sometimes my father would offer a stranger a piece of chicken. It didn’t matter how long you had lived in Santa Fe, what color your skin was or what part of town you were from.
We were all there together to celebrate another year in our community.
My favorite part of Fiesta has always been the Pet Parade. Santa Fe is a dog-loving town. I watched the event from the curb as a child; I even participated in the event when I had kids of my own. My daughter, who’s now 19, will always remember the year she was in the parade as the princess from “Princess and the Pup Pea.”
Jack, my Jack Russell terrier mix, was ready to shed his pea pod costume when the crowd yelled, “Ma’am, your daughter!” I turned around to find my daughter had fallen off the “mattress” of stacked blankets and was lying in the middle of the street. She was fine, but needless to say, our participation that morning came to an end.
My youngest son, now 11, has been in the Pet Parade three times. The second time, he was the fisherman on the “Paws” boat. Jordy, my terrier mix, was cast as the shark circling the boat. To be honest, I’m not sure what’s more fun — participating in the parade or watching.
The hysterical/historical parade always has been a sign of the ending of Fiesta — one last chance to go downtown when the parade is over and grab a Frito pie or burger.
I know people have differing opinions on Fiesta. I’ve always regarded it as a time for my community to come together and put aside differences. It’s that kind of connection that I love about my hometown. Even all these years later, I enjoy going down Don Gaspar, past the place where I was born, on my way home after work.
But I also know nothing stays the same forever. I realize my memories of Fiesta aren’t the same as my parents’ — and my kids’ memories won’t be the same as mine.
Sometimes, change is needed to keep up with the times. As long as we have memories, change can be good. And then we can create new memories.