Tag Archives: parades

Santa Barbara Fiesta Spanish Celebration


Collector: “Do you have any specific rituals or festivals you have participated in?”

Informant: “In Santa Barbara there’s Fiesta. We celebrate the Old Spanish Days the first week of August every year.”

Collector: “How do people celebrate fiesta?”

Informant: “There are parades with dancers and Clydesdale horses. We make paper mache eggs that are filled with confetti and you place confetti over people’s heads by cracking the eggs. Eating tamales, corn on the cob. They make all kinds of tamales and Spanish drinks. We have different concerts and bands playing mariachi in the center of town.”

Collector: “Is it restricted to only a certain group of people?”

Informant: “Anyone can join in. It’s a festival for the whole town to celebrate.”


The informant is a black forty-eight-year-old woman from Santa Barbara California.


After learning about Fiesta’s rituals, I found it interesting that the informant participated in Spanish cultural events when she was black. Though she doesn’t share Hispanic ethnicity, attended Fiesta annually as a child and it is now part of her identity. Thus it can be argued that one’s culture does not come from race, but from customs and traditions one participates in. The informant said Fiesta is for the whole town to celebrate. I found it ironic that outsiders felt welcomed in Fiesta, as it is very culturally specific to the Spanish. Instead of “othering” the community, this celebration brought people together.

Alien Day Parade

Z. grew up in a rural town in Western Oregon called McMinnville. Nestled between farms and long stretches of highway, McMinnville is home to the Alien Days parade.

He spoke about the parade as one of the town’s biggest attractions. I grew up in Oregon as well, and many of my classmates and teachers growing up would make the drive to McMinnville once a year to go and celebrate aliens and their presence in the Universe and McMinnville, in particular. Z. said:

“Alien Days parade in McMinnville is a tradition–one of the biggest alien celebrations/congregations in the US, if not the world. Apparently there have been a bunch of sightings in the area and the local culture is super connected to it. People from all over visit, and share stories and perpetuate myths. That’s been going on forever as well.”  

The three-day long event gathers together people in a variety of alien-like costumes, participating in activities from trivia contests to story telling to barbecues.

The tradition has been happening since the 1950’s when one of the most famous photos of a UFO were taken in McMinnville on a plot of farm land. The photos are some of the only ones to have been taken that seem to have no explanation from the US government. The parade brings together people from all over to celebrate their belief in the myth of aliens who come to visit Earth from other galaxies. Because of their origin outside of our universe/reality, these stories could be classified as either legend or myth, depending on how you look at it.

To read more about the Alien Days parade, follow this link: https://visitmcminnville.com/about/articles/ufo-festival/



Informant: So we celebrate the 17th of May because that was when Norway became independent from Denmark. Um… Most people wear the national costume that day, which is handmade, and it’s called a bunad. A lot of families, the moms make the national costume for the children and for themselves.

Interviewer: So what does a typical Syttende Mai day or celebration look like?

Informant: Um, it’s usually a lot of parades. There’s school parades. Almost every single school that’s sort of outside of town will have their own parade where the kids march around their little neighborhood. But if you live close to the city all the schools participate in the city parade… Which means that every school will have their own… Little banner and they will march together and it will be various bands playing throughout the day… And it usually starts in the morning… So everyone gathers in town for that… And then another thing is, there is like a breakfast that people have, like “Independence Breakfast,” which a lot of friends will do and family will do in groups… And then the breakfast itself is very traditional and typical. It’s buffet style. The food itself, it’s a typical Scandinavian breakfast with bread and jelly and røkt laks, which is smoked salmon… So then your closest friends come over and we eat and then walk into town together afterwards and everyone has flags that we fly. And we watch the parade… Yeah, and you know… So then you meet all your friends and your relatives in town after the parade and people hang out and celebrate together… And usually most people have lunch in town where they will just get coffee and cakes… And then there’s another parade later that afternoon, usually around 2 or 3 p.m., where all the organizations, like athletes’ and scouts’ organizations, do a parade. And that one’s fun because it’s more entertaining, because if like the gymnasts are walking, they will stop at certain places and then they will do a little performance… There’s also a separate parade… Kind of in between the two that I mentioned, that is for all the graduated students in town, and that one usually takes place around 12 p.m. and they have buses and cars in the parade.

Interviewer: And what do people do at night? Or in the evenings?

Informant: I think usually that evening, I think most families are just with their families and at like… Mellow gatherings with friends… But the night before is a big party night. The 16th of May is a party night where all the young people go out and party.


Informant: So we used to host the breakfasts, you know… We would invite some of our friends and family to our house early in the morning before the parade started… So they would come to our house and we would then walk into town and watch the parade, and we would meet any family or friends that we haven’t seen yet… And you and your cousins would be in the school parades and then the activities parades, and the activities one is the most fun because there’s a lot of, like, energy and things to watch, you know? And then the schools will normally do things too. So parents will go with their kids to their school after the parade. So we would go with you to that. 

Interviewer: What happens at the schools?

Informant: It’s a lot of games. So you’ll have like… Balls that you throw against these bucket things… Like it’s very much homemade. All of these games are made by the parents… So you like try to knock the buckets down by throwing the ball, and you do the potato bag races, you know. Or running around with the egg on the spoon. Oh and then actually there’s usually a carnival in town. At least in my town there was, you know? Like with all the little merry go rounds and rides.


Syttende Mai involves a lot of visual displays of nationalism. From wearing the traditional costume (the bunad) to waving flags to marching in parades, participants are openly displaying and expressing their Norwegian identity.

The activities of Syttende Mai also suggest that Norway has a family-oriented social culture. Parents contribute plenty of time to their children, whether watching them in parades, or setting up and then participating in the games at the schools. The buffet-style breakfast is quite communal, as it entails everyone coming together to serve themselves from the same mass plates at the same table. Having coffee and cakes in town after the parades is a time to sit and talk; cafés are very social settings, meant for conversation as everyone sits at a coffee table with only each other and their food and drinks, no distraction (unlike a sports bar, for example). Even the national costumes have a familial element, as they are often made by a mother for herself, her husband and their children. There is quite a bit of time spent with close friends too, and one might suggest that such friends may be considered extensions of family. Despite being about Norway’s independence, the activities that make up this holiday suggest that Syttende Mai is a celebration of togetherness, especially as it pertains to family.


To Read More About Syttende Mai:
“Norway Constitution Day (Syttende Mai).” Cultural Studies: Holidays Around the World, 2018.

Parada Del Sol, Western Heritage Parade

The Parada Del Sol is an annual parade in Scottsdale, Arizona. My father is an active, yearly participant since he was very young.

Me: What is the Parada Del Sol?

TC: The Parada Del Sol, has been around for a very long time and it’s the larget horse drawn parade in the country. And it’s also, when I was a kid, the parade coincided with the parade del sol rodeo, so the parade was on Saturday and the rodeo is the Saturday and Sunday. It’s in the springtime and runs through Old Towne Scottsdale. Different equeestrain groups from around Arizona, different government  figures, and civic groups like Native American groups and the Sherrif’s posse and the Scottsdale charros and girl scout groups all walk or ride in the parade. The streets are lined with spectators and it’s an all day affair.

Me: What is the purpose of the parade?
The purpose is to maintain the western heritage of Scottsdale. We are the west’s most western city and have a lot of pride in our western heritage. It’s a combination of our cowboy history, Native American history and Mexican history that makes up the culture of our state and we are celebrating that to remind people of the greatness of our state and to let the kids know where they are living and the history and culture that is found here in Arizona and especially Scottsdale.

Me: Who chooses the parade participants?

TC: A non-profit group has run the parade since the beginning. A committee that runs the parade chooses the participants, it’s a non-government group. It’s a lot of same groups every year with new members, but there is a lot of new groups that pop up.


Festivals and parades are great ways to express identity, whether of a nation or town. They bring together elements they deem important to their identity and display and perform that for everyone to see. The participants are either performing some aspect of their identity or the spectators are watching and passively participating. This festival is expressing the western identity of Scottsdale, Arizona and of Arizona in general by parading members of the community from all walks of life that express western culture. Whether that be an Apache group in traditional dress or the Sherif’s Posse in traditional cowboy dress on horseback. They are expressing and celebrating what they believe is their western culture. People of all backgrounds attend and participate, therefore it is an inclusive celebrating that projects a sense of community around the shared past of the state. It’s put on by a cultural group and participated in by the general public. The parade occurs in the spring when it is starting to warm up again, the name Parada Del Sol in Spanish means parade of the sun, Scottsdale, Arizona is known for its heat and it is something that all Arizonans know and consider part of their identity, that is this shared experience of the extreme heat. Therefore the sun is an important part of their daily lives. The rodeo (it does not happen anymore), is another performance and celebration of Western heritage as Arizona is the birthplace of the Rodeo,which stems from competition based on real life skills needed in cattle ranching. Therefore a rodeo is a large part of the community celebration of western heritage and tradition.


Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve

JH is a senior at an all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives with his parents in Pasadena, CA.

JH talked to me about some of the traditions and rituals that surround New Year’s and New Year’s Eve in his hometown:

“New Years is probably the biggest event in Pasadena…first of all there’s the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game…for the Rose Parade you always know it’s coming because in like, late November they start putting up the grandstands down Orange Grove [a major boulevard], and I live right above the Rose Bowl so they start setting up for events around then too in the neighborhood. They put up these giant white tents down there where they start building some of the floats, and you can go down and help decorate them with flowers – I’ve never gone, but I know some people or their families go every year. The floats are really cool.

There’s also the Rose Court and they’re a big part of the Rose Parade. My sister tried out a few years ago. I think in like September, or really early in the school year, all the girls who are seniors can try out, and they go to this really big mansion called the Tournament House and have a bunch of rounds of interviews. Obviously like, not all the girls are really interested in being on the Court, but it’s just a tradition they all do together. Everyone who participates I know also gets two tickets to this ‘Royal Ball,’ which is basically just a huge dance they have. That’s why a lot of girls do it I guess, just to get the tickets. But I don’t know, maybe it’s also just fun for them to participate. And then they eventually pick like six or seven girls, and one of them is the Queen, and they spend the rest of the year doing charity work and being like, the representatives of Pasadena, and then on New Years they have their own float and they kind of “preside” over the Rose Bowl game later that day.

A lot of my friends don’t really go to the actual parade though…it’s the kind of thing you go to a few times when you’re little and your parents want to take you and it’s exciting – they have free donuts under the grandstands, and hot chocolate – but once you’re like, 10 everyone’s pretty over it. And then when you’re older, the best part about New Years is New Years Eve. The night before, everyone usually gets dressed up, not fancy or anything but girls wear dresses and heels sometimes, and even though it’s freezing outside, like less than 50 degrees at night, everyone goes to parties near the Parade Route. They bring some of the floats onto the street the night before and block it off to cars, to everyone’s just walking up and down Orange Grove looking at floats and hanging out with their friends, there’s some people camped out for the parade on the side, and kids are going back and forth between other people’s parties. It’s really funny because everyone is drinking too. Besides the kids, you see a lot of cops and a lot of people’s parents just really really drunk on the street, and everyone’s just having a good time…if you lived off of Orange Grove you would feel kind of obligated to have a party or open your house up. And then everyone would obviously like count down to midnight together and all that, and then you’d usually crash at someone’s house and wake up the next morning and watch the parade on TV, if you wanted to, or just walk up to the parade route and see it from there. But after awhile no one really got tickets to see the parade. But if you were really lucky, you got tickets to the Rose Bowl game, which was always a big deal. My friends and I really like football, and usually someone’s dad knows someone who can get us tickets, so we try to go whenever we can.”

I asked JH if he thought his experience with this festival was unique, as someone who lived in the community and had people coming from all over to vacation in his hometown:

“Yeah, it was definitely different. Growing up with this happening every year, a lot of it just got kind of annoying, especially living right next to the Rose Bowl and having streets blocked off and so much traffic that entire week before New Years. There’d be a lot of football fans from the Midwest of whatever Big-10 school that was playing, or Stanford people coming down from the Bay for the week, and there’d be just a bunch of people and a bunch of cars all over Pasadena during the end of winter break, a lot of people who didn’t know where they were going. I guess Pasadena isn’t usually a tourist destination until New Years, so it’s weird all of a sudden having a bunch of strangers in your hometown…like Pasadena isn’t small, it doesn’t feel like a small town where everyone knows each other, but you can clearly tell if someone is visiting or someone lives here. And yeah, the Rose Parade gets old after awhile, but I think everyone who lives here would still say it’s one of their favorite holidays.”

My analysis:

Its very different to visit a festival annually and to live in a community where an annual festival takes place – after awhile, the nostalgia and excitement is buffered by some of the logistical nightmares and fatigue that JH describes above. Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve definitely has similar traditions as other places, like counting down to midnight and getting together with friends and family. The Rose Parade also has elements of other festivals, like floats and a “court” of young women. JH gets to see community involvement a tourist doesn’t, like the selection of Rose Princesses or the decoration of floats that requires residents’ participation and support. This ritual is a great example of welcoming the new year by bringing a community together, while continuing customs that now have come to define Pasadena.

For more information about this festival, see:

“About the Rose Parade.” Tournament of Roses. Tournament of Roses, 18 Feb. 2016. Retrieved from https://www.tournamentofroses.com/rose-parade.