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By Fred Swegles

Come March 23, when the streets of downtown San Juan Capistrano transform into the 61st Annual Swallows Day Parade, there’ll be a new sheriff in town.

Her name is Emma Hall. She will be dressed in Wild West attire. She’ll be leading a maybe not-so-somber prisoner through the parade route on a leash.

That would be her dog, Rosie, a Rottweiler that will be clad in prison garb, a lock around her neck and, quite likely, a friendly tongue-drooping smile for parade spectators.

Emma and Rosie are the grand-prize winners from the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association’s 2019 Kids’ Pet Parade, held Feb. 16 at Los Rios Park.

Emma’s prize was an invitation to appear in the upcoming Fiesta de las Golondrinas Parade, which the city hosts yearly to celebrate the return of the migratory swallows to San Juan from South America.

The theme for this year’s parade is “Women of the West,” so Emma and Rosie will fit right in, said Jim Taylor, Fiesta Association president.

Photo Gallery

One of the floats in the parade is designed to celebrate famous women of the West—think Annie Oakley, Taylor said. There will be six marching bands and some 350 horses in what is billed as one of America’s largest non-motorized parades.

Judges at the Kids’ Pet Parade selected Emma and Rosie as the best-costumed owner and pet combo, out of five entries in that category.

Madeline Salinas and her dog, Teddy, earned first place in the domestic pet category, out of five entries.

Kate Pointer and her rabbit, Cruella, were named winners in the barn animals category, among three entries.

Judges Annabelle Isky, Tony Leone, Sylvia Mazzeo Pule, Carolyn Franks, Brandon Rodriguez and Daniela Martinez named Eleanor Tiner and her costumed dog, Pepper, as winners in a special “Kid at Heart” category for people 60 or older with pet.


Saturday, March 16: El Presidente Ball, 6 to 10 p.m. at El Adobe Restaurant, a celebration of San Juan’s early California heritage with dinner, dancing, live music and a best-dressed contest (Spanish, early  California or western attire). Tickets $75, call 949.493.1976.

Wednesday, March 20: Fiesta Grande, 6 to 9 p.m. at the Swallows Inn, featuring wild west entertainment and 11 contests ranging from Best Outlaw and Hairiest Man to Best Prairie Woman, Best Hat and Best Belt Buckle. Free to attend, $5 entry fee per category for the contests.

Friday, March 22: Hoos’Gow Day, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown San Juan, when a costumed sheriff and posse roam the streets in search of city slickers who aren’t wearing at least some western attire. You may get roped and “arrested,” all in fun. To bail out of the portable jail, try to talk your way out or purchase a fiesta souvenir with proceeds helping to defray costs of the fiesta parade.

Friday, March 22: Frog-jumping contest, 4 p.m. at Mission Grill, a children’s favorite. Free. Fiesta Association provides the frogs.

Saturday, March 23: Fiesta parade, 11 a.m. on the streets of downtown San Juan, featuring Grand Marshall Sylvia Mazzeo Pule welcoming the swallows back to town, accompanied by a Mercado Street Faire from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., free to attend in Historic Town Center Park, offering live music, food, an array of vendors and more.


Visit or call 949-493-1976.


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comments (1)

  • I’m a stickler for detail. Please, Fiesta Association and every media outlet that ever mentions the parade, it is NOT the 61st annual parade; it is the 61st parade. Check parade history. Early on, two years were missed. Please, for the sake of historic accuracy, call it the 61st parade without the “annual.” Thank you.

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