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:
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!