Staff Report

More than 150 people celebrated the beginning of summer — and the talents of two local flamenco dancers — by attending the Spirit of Fiesta event at Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church on June 8.

“We are so proud that both the Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta are from the Santa Ynez Valley, and we wanted to support them by hosting an event in the valley,” said Raiza Giorgi, publisher of the Santa Ynez Valley Star.

Spirit of Fiesta Jesalyn McCollum, 17, of Solvang and Junior Spirit Georgey Taupin, 10, of Santa Ynez were chosen for the places of honor in this year’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta after auditions April 15 at La Cumbre Junior High School in Santa Barbara.

The showcase at the Presbyterian Church was sponsored by the Santa Ynez Valley Star, Old Spanish Days Fiesta, and the church.

“Dancing for people in the valley is amazing because we got to have our friends and family come, as most of the fiesta events are down in Santa Barbara and sometimes hard to get to. I really enjoyed the event tonight and performing,” Jesalyn said.

Junior Spirit Georgey Taupin, 10, of Santa Ynez delighted the crowd with her performance June 8 at the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church.

Admission was free, and those attending sat on picnic blankets and lawn chairs as they watched the girls dance several lively numbers that had the audience clapping and cheering.

Jesalyn started dancing flamenco at 3 years old with Garcia Dance Studio in Lompoc and then moved to the Linda Vega studio at 6 years old. She was the 2012 Junior Spirit of Fiesta and is now a professional dancer with Flamenco Santa Barbara.

She spends four to eight hours a day dancing and teaching flamenco. She has made five trips to Spain to train and taken summer intensive courses at the University of New Mexico. She plans to attend that school, majoring in business and flamenco, hoping to come home and open her own studio.

Georgey, the Junior Spirit, has been dancing for five years and trains at Zermeno Dance Academy in Santa Barbara. She started flamenco because of two friends and found that she has a great passion for the dance as well.

This year’s Fiesta celebration will be from Aug. 1-5 in Santa Barbara.

Other preview events include Fiesta Ranchera from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at the historic Rancho La Patera in Goleta; La Recepcion de la Presidenta from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 29, at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort; and the Old Spanish Days annual costume sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, at the Carriage and Western Art Museum.