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Booths, music, food, and sunny, breezy weather marked the 40th annual Fiesta on Aug. 14, which drew hundreds of people to the west field of Old Mission Santa Ines to celebrate the 207-year-old church and support its upkeep.

Visitors explored booths full of homemade baked goods, drinks and local crafts, and children spoiled for a chance to jump in bounce houses, scale a rock-climbing wall or have their faces painted. Others busied themselves with games, such as ring toss, Tic-Tac-Toe, bean-bag toss and other activities. Suffusing the festival with music were the Bone Ramblers, Grupo Folklorico de UCLA, The Low Down Dudes and Caliente, performing to an audience of more than 50 people who sat at tables or under the shade of umbrellas.

The free event is also the mission’s largest annual fundraiser. Money came primarily through a raffle to maintain and renovate specific portions of the church.

More than 400 pounds of tri-tip were served up by the Love family, who have been making and selling the food at the event for more than 30 years. “We’re glad to be a staple of this wonderful event, and the people enjoy the tri-tip so much that we’ve found ourselves rushing back and forth to El Rancho Market to restock.” The meat is in such high demand that one year the undercarriage of the 40-year-old barbecue pit fell out, taking several pounds of meat with it. “We’ve obviously remedied that problem,” Love said, grinning.

Rick Haenel became this year’s Fiesta chairman after the Rev. Gerald Barron asked him to oversee the event with a co-chairman, who later bowed out because he had other responsibilities.

“You spend months planning for this, but watching it all come together in one day is frightening,” he said, wiping beads of sweat off his face. “But the volunteers have stepped up, the community has stepped up, and I’m judging this as a success because of all the smiling children. If the kids are happy, everyone is happy.”

Long-time volunteer Mary Gauthier, who supervised a pitching booth, has participated in the family fest and fundraiser for 41 years. “My mom used to run a guestbook, and she’d make everyone who came into this field sign in,” she said.

Gauthier’s mother, Muriel, wore a flamboyant fiesta dress to help publicize the event. “We gotta get her doing that,” interjected Mary’s friend Clint, who was manning a nearby soda booth. “I’m busy! And it’s a hot day!” she protested. “I’ll have my kids do it,” she added, as her daughter Ashley grinned from ear to ear.

– Report and photos by Jeremy Foster