Portuguese and American flags were held high as queens and princesses in extravagant colorful gowns marched on the streets of Los Banos on Sunday as part of the 100th annual Holy Ghost Festa.
The three-day celebration is held eight weeks after Easter in honor of Queen Saint Isabel of Portugal, who is revered for having served the poor and those in need.
“This is a tradition brought from the Azores islands in Portugal,” said Maria Costa, a Los Banos resident who has taken part in several festas throughout California for more than 40 years. “Many cities have their own festa, and people from all over will go visit and participate. Costa said. “Here in Los Banos, this is a long-standing community event. Every year is great, but this is the 100th year, so we’ve reached a milestone.”
Traditional dance performances and presentations, as well as rosary prayers, were held Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s festivities kicked off at the Los Banos Portuguese DES Hall, where the formation of the 1 1/2-mile parade began.
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To the beat of the Los Banos High School Band, participants made their way to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where Bishop Armando X. Ochoa of the Fresno Diocese held mass.
The centennial festival gathered people from Monterey, Mountain View, Newman, Modesto and other areas. Organizers arranged to have the presence of past queens and DES committee presidents.
One of the returning queens was 1967’s senior queen, Deolinda Brasil.
“It feels wonderful to be back,” Brasil said. “It’s been 47 years since the last time I was in this parade. Doing this brings back so many childhood memories, and getting a chance to catch up with old friends is great.”
Elissa Jensen, senior queen from 2003, also returned to join in the traditional celebration. Jensen, a Los Banos native and current Turlock resident, said she was glad to be back after almost 10 years since she gave up her crown.
“This is just a really big part of my culture, I didn’t want to miss it,” Jensen said. “I think the best thing is seeing younger children so excited about participating in the parade and the celebrations because you know that they will one day carry on this tradition.”
The event culminated back at the DES chapel with musical performances, a presentation of the queen, and sopas – a beef-and-cabbage soup served with Portuguese sweet bread.