Fort Bragg Festa 2009

Long-time readers may recall that my old house in Fort Bragg was ideally situated for parade viewing, since it was at the end of most major parade routes, and I could sit on the roof to watch and get good photos. My new house, as it turns out, is at the beginning of most major parade routes, which also makes it suitable for parade viewing, although I actually have to go to the front of the property to see, instead of sitting on the roof. I admit that I have been slacking on the parade photography over the last year or so (too busy to go out for Paul Bunyan Days, too cold for the Lighted Truck Parade, etc), but today I came home from the bookstore right as the Festa Parade was going by, so I had to grab some pictures.

Festa is actually my favourite parade in Fort Bragg. This was the 69th Holy Ghost Society Festa Parade, which goes to show you how long it’s been going on. And, one of the the things that’s interesting about it is that it is not publicized in/around Fort Bragg. Despite the fact that Festa and the Portuguese community are part of Fort Bragg’s history, they are effectively erased, which is really sad. Especially since people from other Portuguese communities all over Northern California come to our Festa, and in the Portuguese community, Festa is a big deal.

Festa parades have been going on for centuries, as part of a larger festival which commemorates Queen Isabel of Portugal, later canonized as a saint. Isabel was well known during her lifetime for her generosity to the poor, and according to legend, one evening she attempted to sneak some bread for the poor out of her castle, only to be apprehended by her angry husband. He demanded that she release her skirts to show what was inside, and the Queen complied, only to be surprised by the emergence of a shower of rose petals. Isabel was a remarkable women, and is also known as Isabel the Peacemaker because she forged peace between her husband and his son. (Her husband, incidentally, wasn’t such a bad guy.)

During Festa, a number of queens are crowned during festivities which last several weeks, culminating with a parade of the queens and other members of the Portuguese community and a traditional Portuguese meal. While the Portuguese community here is smaller and less active than it once was, it definitely exists, and it is a part of the cultural and ethnic history of Fort Bragg. Hopefully that will someday be recognized by all the white people who are supposedly responsible for promoting tourism here, because Festa should be a major cultural attraction, and it’s not.

Festas and parades actually take place in a lot of regions in the United States, and some of the participants in today’s parade probably also head to other parades in California. The history of the Portuguese in the United States is quite fascinating, and not discussed very often. It’s fascinating for me to see the preservation of Portuguese culture here, with Festa being a particularly notable example.

At any rate, here are some photos from the 2009 Festa Parade in Fort Bragg. There are lots more over on my Flickr if you are interested.

These were taken as the parade was just leaving Portuguese Hall and setting out on a pretty grueling and meandering route through Fort Bragg. I only started snapping about halfway through because I ran into friends and got distracted:

A Festa Queen and her attendants
A Festa Queen and her attendants
Everyone looks very relaxed and happy throughout the parade, chatting with friends and having fun.
Everyone looks very relaxed and happy throughout the parade, chatting with friends and having fun.
These participants came from Sebastopol. (California, not Russia.) I love the cell phone; a great example of how casual everyone is.
These participants came from Sebastopol. (California, not the Ukraine.) I love the cell phone; a great example of how casual everyone is.
Festa always has a ton of Little Queens.
Festa always has a ton of Little Queens.

About three hours later, I went parade hunting to meet up with the parade on its way back. I caught up with it at Pine and Franklin Streets, and meandered back towards Portuguese Hall with it. Along the way, I ran into an ex-Festa Queen who grew up in San Jose, and vividly remembered how heavy the capes are. Given that it’s pretty warm today, I felt pretty bad for the Festa Queens and their attendants; they were all looking like wilting lilies at this point, and no wonder!

Litters with religious statues are carried at the head of the parade.
Litters with religious statues are carried at the head of the parade.
The Knights of Columbus usually march near the head of the parade too.
The Knights of Columbus usually march near the head of the parade too.
Standard bearers for the Fort Bragg Holy Ghost Society, along with (I think?) the priest, who appeared pleased as punch to be busting out the formal cope.
Standard bearers for the Fort Bragg Holy Ghost Society, along with (I think?) the priest, who appeared pleased as punch to be busting out the formal cope.
Festa Queens and attendants from Oakland, mainly chosen to show you these awesome cowboy boots.
Festa Queens and attendants from Oakland, mainly chosen to show you these awesome cowboy boots.
These two Little Queens were having fun.
These two Little Queens were having fun.
You think the Queens look dolled up from the front? Check out this shot of the ornate embroidery and beading on their capes.
You think the Queens look dolled up from the front? Check out this shot of the ornate embroidery and beading on their capes.
Several interesting things in this image; more embroidery detailwork, for starters, along with the somewhat out of character gowns worn by the attendants. Finally, the tattooing, which is a bit unusual for the conservative and traditional types I usually see at the Festa Parade. This piece on her arm is really beautiful, and so was the piece on the other attendant, although alas I didnt get a good picture of it.
Several interesting things in this image; more embroidery detailwork, for starters, along with the somewhat out of character gowns worn by the attendants (you saw a shot of them from the front above). Finally, the tattooing, which is a bit unusual for the conservative and traditional types I usually see at the Festa Parade. This piece on her arm is really beautiful, and so was the piece on the other attendant, although alas I didn't get a good picture of it.

3 Replies to “Fort Bragg Festa 2009”

  1. Yep, that definitely looks like the local Catholic priest. I have been to some of the post parade festivities in the past and it does seem to be a good time.

  2. I’m bummed I missed the big dinner on Saturday night because I somehow didn’t realize Festa was going on. It’s usually a lot of fun and I love talking to the Portuguese old timers and eating Portuguese food!

  3. The parade used to go by my house. I would run out and give the Queen a rose to commemorate the occasion and honor the story. I don’t know why they changed the route, but wish they would bring it back my way.

    Hey, I’ve never tried the dinner because the sign always says “Fish Dinner,” and I’m not a big fish fan (salmon excepted). Your comment about Portuguese food intrigues me though. What’s served?

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