San Juan Capistrano celebrates the return of the swallows

  • Parade attendees stand outside the mission in San Juan Capistrano. (Matthew Kirkland/ Lariat)

San Juan Capistrano residents flocked to the 58th annual Swallows Day Parade on Saturday, March 12. The parade, along with the Mercado Street Faire, is part of the larger Fiesta de las Golondrinas and marks the return of the swallows to the city each year.

Attendees of Fiesta de las Golondrinas can walk Mercado street and buy all types of items from local vendors, see horses and community figures in the parade and participate in the culture of the town.

“Fiesta [de las Golondrinas] has been around for many, many, many years and it evolves and re-evolves and comes back around again. I think it is probably the biggest event in San Juan Capistrano every year,” said Helen Gardner, secretary to the board of directors at the Fiesta Club.

The Swallows Day parade is one of the largest non-motorized parades in the nation and is made possible by a cooperation between city officials and local citizens. Road closures, shuttle busses and countless attendees are all handled by local police and volunteers.

“It’s kind of controlled chaos and its a lot of fun, 99.99 percent of the people are just here to have fun and it’s a great family event, it’s a great community event,” said Lt. Spalding of the Orange County Sheriffs Dept. “The Fiesta [Club] Association that puts this on does a great job, they are so pro-community, pro-San Juan Capistrano.”

The Fiesta Club Association, an organized group of volunteers, hosts the parade and other events every year in San Juan Capistrano. A lot of planning goes into the event as it is one of the biggest in the city.

“In May we elect new officers and a new board and decide who is going to chair what event because we have about six or eight events leading up to this,” Gardner said. “So it is a lot of planning and most people who are on the board have full time jobs and it is just a lot of dedication.”

The parade was not the only event on Saturday, the Mercado Street Faire also took place. Food trucks, clothing vendors and other booths were all in attendance. The faire serves as a great way to support local businesses and provides an excellent resource for consumers.

“I used to love coming to the parade as a guest so it was a great opportunity for me to be a vendor here as well,” said John Kessler owner of Infinity Sauces. “I get a lot of foot traffic and a lot of brand awareness and as you can see the reaction is just amazing, people love the sauces. It’s a great environment.”

The Fiesta de las Golondrinas is a culmination of the efforts of the police, businesses and its citizens as volunteers and attendees. All of San Juan Capistrano comes together on one day to celebrate its deep heritage.

“When I retire I want to come here and sit and watch and go to one of the restaurants after and have a lot of fun,” said Lt. Spalding. “Cause it looks like so much fun and the community is enjoying themselves, you get people from all walks of life and they are all pretty much smiling, so its pretty nice”

The Swallows Day Parade was kicked off by a pancake breakfast and the Fiesta Club Association hosts other events throughout the year including Hoos’ Gow Day, a Taste of San Juan and the El Presidente Ball.