Last Saturday afternoon, Aug. 25, as the summer’s heat was tempered with a mild cool breeze, hundreds of people gathered at St. John Bosco Church in Highland to celebrate its 77th annual fiesta.
“This is [one of two] annual fund-raisers that we have for the church,” said Henrietta Aguilar-Chavez, one of the event’s coordinators. “We anticipate a great turnout this year. It’s a lot cooler than last year.”
Money raised on Saturday and during the annual golf tournament will go toward the new sacristy for the church.
“We’re proud of our people. Our parishioners worked tirelessly for today’s event,” said Aguilar-Chavez, 78. “They prepared the food. Some did the gardening. Many people decorated the patio and put up the temporary fencing. Their volunteer work is a blessing for the church and our community.”
Aguilar-Chavez has helped with the fiesta since she was a little girl.
“My parents would sell enchiladas. They had wood stoves in the booths back then,” Aguilar-Chavez said with a smile.
“I was born and raised here, in East Highlands,” said Becky Padilla-Almanza. “My parents, Lupe and Adelaida Padilla, were raised here in East Highlands, too.”
Padilla-Almanza, 85, has attended St. John Bosco Church for more than 40 years. “My grandpa, Antonio Padilla, helped build the church.”
She was selling authentic cascarones (hollow egg shells filled with confetti) and tamales during the fiesta with her family.
“My sister attends this church, and she put out the word,” said Yolanda Maldonado, visiting from Claremont. “This event is very authentic. It brings back childhood memories of our old church fiestas. The folklorico dancers were beautiful, wonderful and talented.”
“This is where I met my husband,” said Rowena Ramos, who lived in Del Rosa at the time. “My mom, Martha Manuel-Chacon and my dad, Raoul Chacon, used to come to the fiesta at St. John Bosco many years ago.”
Two performances by children and adults shared traditional ballet folklorico dancing with visitors.
One performance was given by several groups of dancers from the Ballet Folklorico Cultural of Colton. They performed 15 dances that represented the states of Jalisco, Chiapas, Sinaloa, Michoacan and Ixtapa.
“We want to share our culture with our community,” said Gloria Chavez, the group’s dance coordinator. “The people here at St. John Bosco are warm and very welcoming. Everyone received us with mucho gusto (happy to have) and mucho carino (love).”
“This event teaches my daughter the traditions of the families and communities of the Hispanic culture,” said Cameron Allenbach of her daughter Chelsea.
“I’ve been attending the fiesta since I was 3 years old. My daughter, Chelsea, is an altar server here at St. John Bosco.”
“It’s like family here in East Highlands. We look out for each other,” said Allenbach.
“It’s awesome being here,” said 11-year-old Chelsea, who danced with the ballet folklorico group from St. John Bosco. “I get to see my godmother and godfather. I get to experience things of my culture, like decorating the cascarones. It’s fun.
“We learn how to pray at the church. The boys even learn how to pray. I get to be with my grandma Angie Vargas. She taught me how to poof the (decorative) flowers, to make them stand out.”
Everyone seated around the open-covered patio applauded all the performers after each dance. Some people would cheer the dance that represented their state in Mexico. A mariachi group took requests and sang many songs. A disc jockey played a mixture of traditional and modern Latin music.
The fiesta offered authentic Mexican food, a country store, crafts, baked goods, game booths, Latin music of different genres, live music and dancing.