Staff Report

Local residents can celebrate with this year’s Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta, who both live in the Santa Ynez Valley, when they dance in a free performance at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 8, at Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church.

The showcase is sponsored by the Santa Ynez Valley Star, Old Spanish Days Fiesta, and the church.

Spirit of Fiesta Jesalyn McCollum, 17, of Solvang and Junior Spirit Georgey Taupin, 10, of Santa Ynez were chosen April 15 after auditions at La Cumbre Junior High School in Santa Barbara.

“I have worked my entire life for this moment, and it finally came true. I can’t even put into words how happy and thrilled I am,” Jesalyn said.

Jesalyn and Georgey both said they are excited to represent the Santa Ynez Valley and hope their participation draws more valley residents to this year’s events.

“We are so proud of both Jesalyn and Georgey, and we hope that the valley turns out to see them perform and hopefully attend several Fiesta events to support them. We are so thankful to the Presbyterian Church for donating their space so we can make this a fun, free community event,” said Raiza Giorgi, publisher of the Star.

The dancing will take place under the awning of the church, and people are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs. California Tacos’ food truck will be selling food before and after the event.

This year marks the 94th edition of Fiesta, which will run from Aug. 1-5.

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.

“I live for dancing, and flamenco just speaks to me. The music, the beats, the performance, I love everything about it,” she said.

Georgey Taupin of Santa Ynez is this year’s Junior Spirit of Fiesta. Photo by Barry Sigman.

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. Her parents, Bernie and Heather Taupin, are friends of the McCollums because they both homeschool their children.

Other Fiesta 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.

For more information, log onto