2022 Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta

The Spirit and Junior Spirit of Fiesta represent the charm and beauty of the culture of Old Spanish Days.

Santa Barbara has many local dance schools that instruct students in the multi-cultural dances of Spain, Mexico, and early California. Young performers dedicate countless hours preparing for this annual event and for an honor to represent Old Spanish Days as the “Spirit of Fiesta” and the “Junior Spirit of Fiesta.” The Spirit of Fiesta leads the annual parade in a traditional white dress and embodies the gaiety and vitality of Santa Barbara's annual summer festival. She has come to be the visual representation of Fiesta, a goodwill ambassador to local residents and visitors alike.

If your organization would like to request an appearance by the Spirit or Junior Spirit of Fiesta, please review the guidelines and submit a request form.

Download Request Form

2022 Spirit of Fiesta - Tara Mata

2022 Spirit and Junior Spirit

Tara Mata, 19, has been dancing since the age four with experience in jazz, contemporary, hip hop, ballet, and, her greatest passion, flamenco. She has trained with Daniela Zermeño-Sanchez since the age of five and has developed her flamenco skills by working with a variety of professional artists. At Zermeño Dance Academy, she has been a dance instructor and mentor since 2015. As a member of Zermeno Dance Academy’s Company group, she has performed in eight professional shows directed by Beth Nesbitt between 2017-2019. 

She recently graduated from Santa Barbara City College with honors after receiving four Associate of Arts degrees, a certificate of completion of the Honors Program, and maintaining a 4.0 GPA. At Santa Barbara City College, she is a tutor in the mathematics department. She is looking forward to attend San Francisco State University to earn her Bachelors Degree in Biology. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting and exploring new places both within and outside of Santa Barbara. 

As a fourth generation Santa Barbarian, Tara has always loved participating in Old Spanish Days events from a young age. She grew up watching Spirits and Junior Spirits who inspired the community with their grace and joy which has guided her to become the person she is today. Becoming the Spirit of Fiesta has fulfilled a lifelong dream of hers and she is so honored to represent Santa Barbara as the 2022 Spirit of Fiesta. 

2022 Junior Spirit of Fiesta- Layla Gocong

2022 Junior Spirit

Layla Gocong, 9, is a 3rd grade student at Crane Country Day School. Her favorite subjects in school are math and drama class. She is a well-rounded child with a variety of interests and hobbies. Some of them are dancing flamenco, playing piano, singing, soccer and playing with her animals. Layla is a kind, confident and adventurous girl that is always up for a challenge. She hopes to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

Layla has been dancing Flamenco at Zermeno Dance Academy for 4 years. She grew up watching her babysitter dance during Fiesta and wanted to follow in her footsteps. This was her second year trying out for Jr. Spirit of Fiesta where she was awarded the honor. She hopes to make Santa Barbara proud this Fiesta season while dancing and appearing all over town.

photos by Fritz Olenberger