Those who have experienced Fiesta Days deprivation over the past two years can rest easy. The multi-day festival celebrating Vacaville’s Hispanic and Western heritage returns May 26-30 for the first time since 2019.
CEO Karen Juilfs called it an incredible feeling.
“After a two-year break, we’re ready,” she said. “We are excited.”
Fiesta Days have been a Vacaville tradition since 1957, held in the days leading up to Memorial Day and generally consist of a carnival, barbecue, parade, live music and more. In the first 62 years of its existence, the festival had only been canceled once: in 1959, when the event was dampened by thunderstorms. That all changed in 2020 when Fiesta Days was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide restrictions.
In 2021, organizers announced that the celebrations would be held in two parts: smaller events in a modified format for Memorial Day weekend and some of the most anticipated Labor Day weekend events. The first edition was successfully held, including a drive-thru version of the barbecue kick-off, carnival food sales, the annual diaper derby and live music from the Pub Kats.
However, with COVID cases surging over the summer, the second installment – consisting of the parade, carnival and other larger events – has been cancelled.
Still, organizers weren’t determined to let Fiesta Days rest for a third year, so with changes in COVID-19 restrictions, it was decided to bring back the tradition over Memorial Day weekend.
Many popular items will return. May 26 will open with the Mardi Gras, Festival Garden, Jail and a concert by Journey’s Edge, a tribute to legendary San Francisco band Journey.
All of these elements will continue on May 27th, which will also feature the opening of the Family Fun Zone and a performance by Skynnyn Lynnyrd, a tribute to Southern rock icons Lynyrd Skynyrd.
May 28th sees the grand parade down Merchant Street, with Wren’s Cafe owners Georgia and Kevin Moreno serving as Grand Marshals, fulfilling a role they were first announced for in 2020. Applications for the parade for interested participants can be downloaded at Vacavillefiestadays.org/parade.
The remainder of the day will include the traditional pancake breakfast at St. Paul’s Methodist Church, a car show on East Main Street and a melodrama performance by the Gaslighters Theatrical Company at the Saturday Club.
On May 29th there will be a Mass in the Park on the Creekwalk Stage with dances by Folklórico Juvenil Danzantes Unidos, Murrillo’s Jalapeño and Onion Eating Contest and music by Grupo Zarpazo, DSAS3, Banda La Octava Maravilla and Alerta Maxima .
The event will conclude on May 30th with the continuation of ongoing elements such as Carnival, Fiesta Garden, Prison and even some live music to be announced. Bee pollinators are also asked to bring their plants to the Family Fun Zone where they can plant the planters provided by Fiesta Days Share a Seed.
Fiesta Days has also partnered with the Vacaville Police Department and Johnston Amusements for Do the Right Thing, a program that honors youth who go above and beyond to help others through seemingly small actions like petting and helping a younger child ride a bike to teach. People can nominate someone who meets one of these attributes at Vacavillefiestadays.org/do-the-right-thing-program.
Juilfs said there might be some minor changes, but people’s favorite things about Fiesta Days will be there.
“I think people will see that we’re trying to put on the best possible event in the circumstances of two years of no income,” she said. “I think there will be some small changes, but the bands, the carnival, the beer garden, our food vendors, we’re definitely trying to put on a full-fledged event.”
And for those who were holding on to their carnival tickets from last year, Juilfs said to dust them off.
“They are all good from last year and will be accepted this year,” she said.
Pre-sale carnival tickets are available from April 15th. For more information about Fiesta Days, including vendor registrations, visit Vacavillefiestadays.org. Updates will also be posted on Facebook.com/VacavilleFiestaDays.