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By Rachael Garcia and Allison Jarrell

The San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association kicked off the 2017-2018 Fiesta de las Golondrinas season with its Farewell to the Swallows BBQ on Oct. 21 at Zoomars Petting Zoo. During the event, parade officials announced the 2018 grand marshal and selected this year’s Fiesta dignitaries.

Jim Taylor, president of the Fiesta Association, said Saturday’s crowd was one of the largest turn-outs for the event, which included live music from the Kelly Boyz Band, country dancing and a barbeque meal. About 100 people gathered to see who would be dubbed Ms. Fiesta and Señor San Juan—the two dignitaries who represent the Fiesta Association throughout the entire Fiesta de las Golondrinas season.

Two local couples—Nancy Ingham and John “Fish” Fischle; and Nina Leone and Jimmy Ferguson—were in the running for the titles. All four contenders are active members of the Fiesta Association, and Ingham and Fischle served as dignitaries back in 2012.

After a vote, Leone and Ferguson were officially named this year’s Ms. Fiesta and Señor San Juan.

Ferguson lives in Coto de Caza, but he said he shops, eats and visits friends every day in San Juan Capistrano.

“I just love the whole culture and generosity of the people in San Juan,” Ferguson said.

Two generations of the Leone family came to San Juan from Massachusetts in the 1980s and have volunteered with the Fiesta Association for over three decades now. Nina Leone lives in San Juan Capistrano and is Zoomars’ animal care manager. She’s also served on the Fiesta Association board and was the chair of the parade in 2015.

After being named Ms. Fiesta, Leone said, “I’m smiling so much right now that my face is going to hurt tomorrow!”

This year’s junior dignitaries are Addison Williams and Declan Talla. Both Williams and Talla are fifth graders at Saddleback Valley Christian School in San Juan Capistrano.

Also announced on Saturday was this year’s parade grand marshal—Hollywood director and comedian Steve Oedekerk. Oedekerk lives in San Juan Capistrano with his family and is known locally for his continued work with developers to bring a boutique Kimpton hotel—the Hotel Capistrano—to downtown San Juan.

The Fiesta Association, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, manages and produces San Juan’s annual Swallows Day Parade, as well as other events such as the Taste of San Juan, Kids’ Pet Parade, El Presidenté Ball, Fiesta Grandé, Hoos’Gow Day and the Frog Jumping Contest.

The 60th Annual Swallows Day Parade and Mercado Street Faire—one of the nation’s largest non-motorized parades—is set for March 24. This year’s theme is “Diamond Trails & Swallows Tales” in honor of the parade’s diamond anniversary.

The Fiesta Association is always looking for more members and volunteers to help with the season’s events. For information on getting involved, contact Leanna Bradshaw at leannabradshaw@gmail.com, or check out the group’s next public meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at the Nydegger Building, located at 31421 La Matanza Street in San Juan Capistrano. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for socializing and refreshments. The meetings generally run from 7-8 p.m. During the off-season (April through December), Fiesta meetings are every second Wednesday of the month.

For more information on the Fiesta Association, the Swallows Day Parade, or other upcoming events, call 949.493.1976, visit www.swallowsparade.com, or follow the Fiesta Association on Facebook at @SwallowsDayParade.

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