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A celebration fit for a queen 

Queens from all over California parade down the streets of Pismo

New Times Tell me about the St. Anthony Celebration happening in Pismo Beach.

Lori Frontella The St. Anthony’s celebration honors Queen [Saint] Elizabeth of Portugal-—the whole story of how her people were starving … and her husband, the king, who was horrible—she would hide food in her room and feed poor people. He caught her one day and there was a miracle. The “Festa” (Celebration) for the Portuguese community is a tradition that is rich with both cultural and religious aspects. At any Portuguese celebration, there will be queens representing all of the three types of Festas. In Pismo Beach, the festa is in honor of St. Anthony [of Padua]. He was born in Portugal to wealthy parents, who were very unhappy when he decided to become a cleric. He spent most of his life in Italy preaching to the masses. He was canonized a saint only 352 days after his death–this is generally unheard of in the Catholic Church. There are many legends regarding St. Anthony. One of these legends is that he is known to help people when they lose things. Some Catholics will invoke St. Anthony when they lose their keys, or larger items. Another legend is that St. Anthony will help young women to find a suitable husband. Although some of these may seem silly, one thing is certain; St. Anthony was a well-loved and respected man.

New Times What is your role within the event?

Frontella I am the parade chairman. On Sunday morning we have a parade that includes all of the queens. Each queen represents a city; an association … Pismo has a big queen and a little queen, a senior queen, jr. queen and a little queen. All of the other associations, like Hanford, Tulare, and all over California, have their own associations. During the summer months these associations travel throughout California and go to all of these other celebrations. We have about 40 to 50 cities participating in our parade, which is one of the bigger parades. San Diego is the biggest.

New Times Why have this festival?

Frontella In honor of Queen Elizabeth, we have festivals so we may feed anyone who wants to eat. It’s free.

New Times Tell me more about the events taking place throughout the weekend.

Frontella Saturday, there will be a donor’s luncheon and an auction. The public can attend for $10. Saturday night we have a dance and celebration. Sunday morning there is the parade and Mass—the religious ceremony. Bishop [Richard J.] Garcia of the Monterey Diocese will be here to celebrate Mass, which is very rare. He has been very kind to come and it is an honor to have him say Mass.

New Times Anything special happening since it’s the fiftieth anniversary of this celebration?

Frontella For the 50th anniversary we have invited all past queens and presidents for the last 50 years who are still with us. They will have a float in the parade.

New Times Why should people attend this event?

Frontella To see how other cultures celebrate. People come from all over to attend who are not Portuguese. A lot of them don’t know why we are celebrating and they come for the free food!

New Times Exactly why I am talking to you! We need to spread the word.

Frontella We are honoring normal, everyday people by feeding them if they want to be fed. We are acting for Queen Elizabeth.

New Times What’s a sopa?

Frontella Sopas can be made in many ways but most festas have a stew that is made with beef and cabbage poured over French bread.

New Times Yum.


Christy Heron cried like a baby at The O.C. series finale. She also cried when Marissa was killed off at the end of season three. Tivo her back to reality at cheron@newtimesslo.com.

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