Canyon Lake History: A look back at Fiesta Days from 1973 through 2021

Photo provided by the Canyon Lake Lighthouse Magazine.

Held annually since 1973, Canyon Lake’s Fiesta Day is considered the granddaddy of all Canyon Lake events. This iconic event takes place on the Saturday before Memorial Day and features a hometown parade followed by entertainment, food, and vendors. Today, Fiesta Day brings together nearly 10,000 residents and guests.

Here is a look back at some of the Fiesta Days that took place between 1973 and 2021.

Fiesta Day Founder

Dot Herendich is credited with founding the concept of Fiesta Day in 1973 when Canyon Lake consisted of fewer than 500 families. Herendich was a volunteer social chairman for the community and was charged with planning an activity for the month of May. Herendich, along with Pege Worley, Kris Todhunter, and Barbara Paris, planned a two-day fiesta with a Mexican theme that offered fun for residents and weekenders.

The First Fiesta Day – 1973

The first Day featured pinatas for children and booths of handcrafted items and artwork. Costumes and Spanish dancers, music, and entertainment were provided by the Arias Troubadors of Hemet. An arts and crafts exhibit and a photographic display showcased the talents of local artists. Members of the Youth Club operated a jail to further their funds for youth activities. Their booth won the Best-Decorated prize. The lodge offered Mexican food and margaritas.

Editor’s note: Traditionally, Canyon Lake’s Fiesta Day kicks off with a hometown parade. Our research did not uncover when the first parade was added to Fiesta Day. Articles dated from 1973 (the year the first Fiesta Day was held) through 1975 made no mention of a parade. The 1976 Fiesta Day article also made no mention of a parade; however, the article featured photos that indicate a parade took place. The first article we uncovered that made mention of a Fiesta Day parade was printed in 1977.

Fiesta Day 1976

In 1976, the Art Association displayed the works of about 20 talented artists on the front grounds of the lodge. Members of Canyon Lake Community Church sold popcorn, the Lions Club had a ceramic booth, the Youth Group manned a “jail,” the Men’s Golf Club offered games, the Ski Club had a “walk on water booth,” and the CLAMS had a ring game. The Canyon Lake Directory was sold with funds going to the Tree Fund. The evening ended with a western barbeque and dance sponsored by the Equestrian Center.

Fiesta Day 1977. Photo provided by the Canyon Lake Lighthouse Magazine.

Fiesta Day 1978

The 1978 Fiesta Day started with a parade that traveled from Blue Bird Drive to the lodge and featured horse riders, vehicles, bicycles, and the POA’s heavy equipment. As the parade traveled down Canyon Lake Drive South, judges were busy determining winners in each category.

Most Canyon Lake clubs and organizations had booths at the lodge area. The Square Dance Club performed an exhibition and the Art Association displayed paintings. The paintings were judged as professional and non-professional in five categories with several Canyon Lake artists receiving recognition.

Fiesta Day 1979

In 1979, the Fiesta Day Parade started at 10 a.m. at the main gate and traveled to the lodge. Music was provided by the Perris High School Marching Band. The Sweepstakes Trophy was awarded to the Canyon Lake Twirlers, who performed square dancing on a flatbed truck. The Homeowners Club award for Best Theme was presented to the Yacht Club for an innovative boat float.

Fiesta Day 1979 also featured food and game booths sponsored by clubs and charities. It was reported that their revenues were “the highest ever” and that “many booths ran out of goods two to three hours before the Fiesta closed.”

The highlights for children included four pinata breakings during the day. The dunking booth was also a big hit. Proceeds from the dunking booth went to help fund the Basketball Court. The Future Farmers of America featured a petting zoo.

The five beauty contests sponsored by the Lighthouse Magazine were held at noon and brought out more contestants than anticipated. About a dozen men participated in the Hairy Legs Contest.

The Twirlers Club held a dance exhibition in the Fireside Room at the lodge. Rosemary Halderman demonstrated the latest moves in disco dancing and involved people in the audience in her show. The Hawaiian dance exhibition was performed by Canyon Lake Ladies under the direction of Valerie Sills. Sisters Rosita Abbott and Bernice Wood performed some of their native Mexican dances.

The Ski Club and the Tennis Club faced off in a softball game at Gault Field. The Tennis Club won the game 11 to 5. The losers donated $50 toward the baseball field and the winners donated $25.

Fiesta Day 1981. Photo provided by the Canyon Lake Lighthouse Magazine.

Fiesta Day 1982

The 1982 Fiesta Day included the traditional hometown parade, booths, entertainment, a ski diving demonstration featuring daredevils making jumps from airplanes into inner tubes placed in the lake, a ski show presented by the Ski Club, and the long-awaited Milk Carton Boat Race on the main lake. Those who still had energy at the end of the day could purchase tickets to attend the country-western dance held at the lodge from 9 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Fiesta Day 1983

The 1983 Fiesta Day featured a parade, an amateur talent show, food and games booths, and the Art Association’s Art Show with more than $600 in prize money. For the first time, the parade started at Rim Rock Place and Canyon Lake Drive North. Mrs. Canyon Lake, Miss Canyon Lake, and Jr. Miss Canyon Lake served as grand marshals. Judges were stationed along the parade route to choose trophy and ribbon winners in several categories.

The lodge parking lot was cordoned off and transformed into a carnival area of concession stands and game and craft booths manned by the POA. Food and drinks were sold by various clubs and organizations.

Art displays were a part of Fiesta Day for many years. Photo provided by the Canyon Lake Lighthouse Magazine.

Fiesta Day 1985

The 1985 Fiesta Day was “closed to the public” and did not feature a Milk Carton Boat Race. The traditional parade started at the east gate, traveled to Canyon Club Drive, and then dispersed at Lighthouse Drive. Entries included floats created by clubs and organizations, an Equestrian Club unit, a group of antique cars, and a moving demonstration by the Tennis Club, complete with a portable net.

A limousine was on display at the lodge, as well as several boats and the community’s emergency vehicle and fire engines. More than 100 artists participated in the Art Association’s Art Show. The new fishing club, the Anglers, were in the Fireside Room showing slides and offering information about the club and its plans to stock the lake. The Canyon Lake Association of Men (CLAMS) helped to police the area during the activities.

Fiesta Day 1987

The theme for the 1987 Fiesta Day was “A Day of Reminiscence.” The Fiesta Day Committee encouraged residents to dress in costumes of the past. The parade started at Gulf Stream Drive and Canyon Lake Drive North.

Parade entries included local Scouts, clowns, classic cars, and Quail Valley and Canyon Lake Fire Departments. The 50-piece band from Temple Christian School in Perris was among the marchers. All participants were awarded ribbons. The grand marshal was resident Vick Knight Jr., a local vintner, school administrator, and host of Channel 3’s “Knight on the Town” program.

A “big Top” was erected over the entertainment stage. Following the Ski Club’s Ski Show, children took advantage of a special hour of games planned just for them on the beach, which included a Water Balloon Slingshot Contest.

Fiesta Day 1988. Photo provided by the Canyon Lake Community News.

Fiesta Day 1988

In 1988, residents Bill Gault and Pam Jandt were honored as grand marshals. Gault was the founder of Gault Field and work unselfishly toward the upkeep and improvement. Jandt was honored as one of the originators of the chili cook-off and for the many volunteer hours spent helping to beautify Canyon Lake’s parks and common areas.

The Canyon Lake Choraleers, the Lakeside Jazz Band, and a rock band offered entertainment throughout the day. The Ski Club demonstrated their skills, human pyramids, and parasailing on the main lake. The Miss Canyon Lake Teen Contest was held for girls ages 13 through 19. The contestants also participated in the parade, being driven in vintage autos by CARS members.

Fiesta Day 1990

In 1990, Canyon Lake celebrated its 17th Fiesta Day. With the theme “European Heritage of Canyon Lake,” Canyon Lakers and their guests were invited to don costumes representative of their roots. The parade started at Gulf Stream Drive and Canyon Lake Drive North and was led by grand marshals Cora Sue Barrett and Don Wicen.

Entertainment included a Ski Show and performances by the Choraleers and the Twirlers.

Fiesta Day 1991

In honor of Canyon Lake Cityhood, the theme for the 1991 parade was “New Beginnings.” The City of Canyon Lake was incorporated on December 1, 1990. June and Harry Pahel were honored as grand marshals. A special parade guest was Carl Blomquist, who won the seal/logo contest held by the new City of Canyon Lake. His winning entry was unveiled later that day.

Entertainment included pony rides, ring toss, face painting, a magician, a “balloon lady,” a Ski Club Ski Show, and performances by the Choraleers, Twirlers, and the Terra Cotta Jr. High Drill Team, which just won the national championship. A Personality Plus Contest took center stage. Judges picked winners in several categories of babies and toddlers.

Fiesta Day 1993

In 1993, Dee Dee and Mike Davis were honored as grand marshals. Sixty-three booths were assembled at the lodge, providing everything from food and clothing to chiropractic checkups and fortune-telling. For the first time, child care was offered in a roped-off area. The service was offered by New Hope Community Chuch, which offered child care up to the age of six for a two-hour period.

Entertainment included the women’s barbershop chorus “Windsong Harmony,” the Choraleers, the Twirlers, line dancers, a Dixieland quintet called “Pure Brass,” the Temescal Canyon High School Tall Flags, the Terra Cotta Drill Team, a world-class group of gymnasts, and a blues singer named Rosalee Barnet.

Fiesta Day 1995

“Clowning Around” was the theme of the 1995 Fiesta Day. The theme was evident at the lodge where booths were decorated with clowns in mind. Prizes were awarded for the best-decorated booths.

The parade was led by the Temescal Canyon High School Band and grand marshals Kathy Bennett and Al Trembly. The parade started at Gulf Steam Drive and Canyon Lake Drive North and continued to Canyon Club Drive where it circled the driveway at the lodge.

Fiesta Day 1996

The theme for the 23rd annual Fiesta Day was “Fun and Games” and featured more than 70 booths offering food, games, and services. The grand marshals were the community’s Man and Women of the Year, Jim Mead and Ruth Wysocki. Wysocki was honored in absentia because she was in a track meet preparing for the Olympics.

Fiesta Day 1998

The 1998 Fiesta Day theme, “Happy 30th Birthday, Canyon Lake,” celebrated three decades of life in “paradise.” A giant birthday cake float lead the parade and a special birthday party featuring a birthday cake, party favors, and hundreds of balloons was held at the lodge.

Canyon Lake’s Man and Woman of the Year, Jeff Butzlaff and Cora Sue Barrett were honored as grand marshals. Canyon Lake pioneers Elinor and Don Martin set up a display in the lodge featuring Canyon Lake history.

Contests included a Casting Contest sponsored by the Bassmasters Club, a Lip Sync Contest, and a Personality Plus Contest.

Fiesta Day 2000

The 2000 “Fun in the Sun” Fiesta Day took place at Holiday Harbor Park due to the lodge being under construction. The parade started at Blue Bird Drive and traveled down Canyon Lake South to Village Way, ending at the park. Cathy Zaitz was honored as grand marshal. Entertainment included the Ski Club’s Ski Show, a DJ, a Lip Sync Contest, a Personality Plus Contest, and a talent show.

Fiesta Day 2002

The 2002 Fiesta Day theme, “A Salute to Heroes,” paid tribute to local heroes — from veterans and current military personnel to firefighters and police officers and elected officials to volunteers. Fiesta Day founder, Dot Herendich, was among those honored. Cora Sue Barrett, who for many years spearheaded Fiesta Day, was memorialized in the parade. Her family rode in a vehicle commemorating her service.

Fiesta Day 2004

The 31st Fiesta Day kicked off with a parade beginning at 9 a.m. at Gulf Stream Drive. John McNamara was honored as the grand marshal. Citizens of the Year Marti Gibson and Marti Norris were also honored with a spot in the parade. The city, POA, and county parade dignitaries were asked to meet at the POA office at 7:30 a.m. for a continental breakfast and the assignment of cars.

Opening the festivities at the lodge were Kenny Gibbs, who sang “God Bless the USA,” and 11-year-old Tori Kelly, who sang the National Anthem. Kelly went on to earn two Grammy Awards after appearing on the ninth season of “American Idol.”

The Irish Step Dancers from the Donna Means School in Temecula and Diana’s Dance Company were among the performers. As in past years, the Ski Club took to the main lake offering a demonstration of its skills.

Fiesta Day 2005

The theme for the 2005 Fiesta Day was “Hands Across America.” Canyon Lake Mayor John Zaitz lead the parade as the honorary grand marshal. Also appearing in the parade were Citizen of the Year Shirley Beuttas, Volunteer of the Year Gloria Tremolini, Small Business Owner of the Year Paul Channette, and the Canyon Lake Royal Court. Other dignitaries included Sheriff Boby Doyle, Assemblyman John J. Benoit, and Canyon Lake resident and EVMWD Treasurer Ben Wiche.

A continental breakfast for the parade dignitaries was held at East Port Park at 7:30 a.m.

More than 70 entries traversed the parade route, including the Color Guard from Elsinore High School and the Canyon Lake Middle School Band.

To avoid the congestion that day, a free shuttle bus provided by the Riverside Transit Authority was in service.

As usual, there was plenty of entertainment. The Choraleers performed a patriotic program and a variety show highlighted talented Canyon Lakers who sang, danced, and performed for the crowd. Other entertainment included performances by a Beach Boys tribute band, a Beatles tribute band, a hula hoop contest, a pie-eating contest, and performances on the water by the Ski Club and Wakeboard Club.

A Kids’ Zone featured water slides, a bounce house, an obstacle course, a dunk tank, jousting rings, and cotton candy and snow cone booths. A food court offering hamburgers, bratwurst, hot dogs, and a variety of snacks were set up on the poolside patio where Taco Tuesdays took place.

Those responsible for planning the 2005 Fiesta Day were POA staff, Joanna Spiller, LaRue McNamara, Debby Gagnon, Sheryl Aguilar, Vonnie Kent, Wilma Nagle, Roanne and Joe Grasso, Kathie Barns, and Kandace Carrasco.

Fiesta Day 2006

“A Salute to the American Spirit” was the theme of the 2006 Fiesta Day. Mayor Marty Gibson was honored as grand marshal. Other dignitaries included the Canyon Lake Royal Court, the Chamber of Commerce, Citizens of the Year Ellen Kellett and Ron Hartley, Youths of the Year Danielle Libring and Brent Miller, and Sheriff Bob Doyle.

The Choraleers opened the festivities with a patriotic performance. Entertainment for kids included a Kids’ Zone featuring water slides, a bounce house, an obstacle course, a dunk tank, a giant slide, and a housing ring.

The 2015 Fiesta Day featured a Cardboard Boat Race. In the early days, this race was called the Milk Carton Race and all boats had to be constructed from milk cartons. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Fiesta Day 2016

With the theme “Flashback Fiesta,” the 2016 Fiesta Day celebrated the 50s, 60, and 70s. It also recognized the formation of the City of Canyon Lake by honoring three of the city’s founders and inaugural city councilmembers: Jack Wamsley, Warren Kelsey, and John Giardinelli, who served as grand marshals. Other dignitaries riding in the parade included representatives from the city and Poa and the Canyon Lake Royal Court. The parade also featured Equestrian Club members and their horses.

Festivities included live entertainment, a Beard and Mustache Contest, a Hula Hoop Contest, tube rolling and a ski show on the main lake, a mini horse petting zoo, a kid’s zone, dance performances by JDI, a magician, a balloon artist, face painting, a dance disco demo, a reptile show, and more than 100 vendors selling food and merchandise.

The Ski Shows have been a part of Fiesta Day for decades. Pictured are the ShowCal Skiers performing at the 2016 Fiesta Day. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Fiesta Day 2017

The theme for the 44th Fiesta Day, “Stars, Stripes, and Fiesta,” celebrated patriotism and paid tribute to all those who served the nation. Grand marshals Nancy Carroll and Al Van Beenen lead the parade, followed by city and POA dignitaries, Citizen of the Year Donna Ritchie, Volunteer of the Year Shawna Bowen, Youth of the Year Jordan Strange, and the Bassmasters Club as Organization of the Year.

The Women’s Club received $100 for its Best-Dressed Float. The Yacht Club won the Best-Decorated Booth Contest. Kathy Knutson won the Boss of the (Barbecue) Sauce Contest and Byron Evans won the Jammin Jam Contest.

Festivities included live entertainment, a reptile show, mini horses, a magician, a kids zone, a dunk tank, and a ski show put on by the Canyon Lake’s ShowCal Skiers.

In 2018, the 45th annual Fiesta Day theme, “Cheers to 50 Years,” paid tribute to the POA’s 50th anniversary. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Fiesta Day 2018

Approximately 8,000 people attended the 45th Fiesta Day. The theme “Cheers to 50 Years” paid tribute to the POA’s 50th anniversary. The celebration began with the iconic hometown parade. The parade was led by Detective Justino Flores and Officer Brown, followed by Cub Scouts Pack 346 carrying the opening Banner, grand marshal Joanna Spiller, and Poa and city dignitaries. A group of Canyon Lake kids accompanied Storm Stadium’s mascot Thunder in the Riverside Transit trolley. Several veterans participated in the Veterans Brigade led by Dave Harrigan.

Festivities included a ski show performed by Canyon Lake’s ShowCal Skiers, a 250-foot zip line at Sunset Beach, more than 90 vendors, a photo booth, a caricature artist, and a balloon artist. The Trip and One Guy and a Chick entertained the crowd with live music.

The 2018 Fiesta Day parade was led by Detective Justino Flores and Officer Brown. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Fiesta Day 2019

The theme for the 2019 Fiesta Day was “Fiesta Day Celebrates Hawaii, Remembering Pearl Harbor.” The honorary grand marshals were longtime residents Nancy and Ted Horton. The Women’s Club won $250 for its Best-Decorated Float.

In keeping with the theme, a Pearl Harbor exhibit was featured in the Holiday Bay Room and America’s White Table was on display outside.

Entertainment included the bands One Guy and a Chick and Republic of Music, a stilt walker, a Moana impersonator, Polynesian dancers, and a men’s Hula Contest. The kids’ zone featured a variety of carnival rides, a bounce house, and two raffles featuring $250 in prizes and a bicycle. The lodge grounds featured a food court and merchandise vendors.

Fiesta Day 2020

The 2020 Fiesta Day was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that didn’t stop a group of residents from protesting and organizing their own parade. A resident-led golf cart parade started at Holiday Harbor Park and traveled to the East Gate and then to Gault Field. Several spectators lined the parade route and cheered on the carts as they passed by blasting patriotic music. Most of the carts featured an American flag or patriotic decorations.

The 2021 Fiesta Day “Park Hopper” featured two concerts at Holiday Harbor Park. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Fiesta Day 2021

Fiesta Day returned in 2021 but with a twist. With the pandemic still looming, the parade was canceled and the POA opted for a Fiesta Day “Park Hopper” event. Instead of all the festivities taking place at the lodge in one day, the festivities were spread out over the weekend and at several locations throughout Canyon Lake.

Two rock concerts featuring Rock Candy and Southern Reign were featured at Holiday Harbor, along with vendors and food trucks. Live performances on the outdoor stage at the lodge included saxophonist Kenny Rice and vocalist Aprile DeAnne.

Sierra Park featured a Classic Car Show, vendors, and food trucks. Indian Beach featured a movie night, face painting and crafts for kids, a reptile show, vendors, and a DJ. East Port Park featured bicycle lessons, pickleball lessons, and a petting Zoo. The tennis courts featured junior tennis tournaments. A movie night and mini pedal boats for kids were featured at the pool. The water sports clubs held a ski show on the main lake. The lodge featured live entertainment, food trucks, and a roaming juggler.

Fiesta Day 2022

The 2022 Fiesta Day will kick off with the return of the parade, followed by the “Park Hopper.” The POA selected Debby Gagnon of Pack, Wrap & Post as the honorary grand marshal. Like last year, the 2022 Fiesta Day will be spread out over three days at several locations throughout Canyon Lake and feature food and merchandise vendors, two “Rock the Boat” concerts, a car show, a ski show, tow movie nights, a DJ, bounce houses, a reptile show, lawn games, a magician, a rock wall, and more.


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