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Canyon Lake History: The first Fiesta Day

These images of the 4th annual Fiesta Day were printed in the 1976 issue of the Canyon Lake Lighthouse Magazine. 

In 1973, resident Dot Herendich was a volunteer social chairman for the community and was charged with planning an activity for the month of May. “I was sitting on Sunset Beach and decided it would be fun to plan a special celebration for Memorial Day weekend,” Herendich said in a 2002 interview.

Herendich came up with the concept of planning a fiesta. Along with Peg’e Worley and Kris Todhunter, Herendich planned a two-day fiesta with a Mexican theme that offered fun for residents as well as weekenders and property owners who traditionally spent Memorial Day weekend at the campground. At the time, Canyon Lake consisted of fewer than 500 families.

1980 Fiesta Day parade. Canyon Lake Lighthouse Magazine photos. 

The first Fiesta Day festivities included Mexican food and margaritas offered by the lodge, pinatas, costumes, and Spanish dancers. Members of the Youth Club operated a “jail” to further their funds for youth activities. Their booth won the Best-Decorated prize. 

Other entertainment included nail hammering, ball tossing, target shooting, a putting green, a cakewalk, and a popcorn machine. Some of those responsible for all of this were the members of the Woman’s Club, CLAMS, Men’s Golf Club, Women’s Golf Club, Homeowners Club, Youth Club, and the POA.

Phyllis Bailey was in charge of organizing the arts and crafts section. The exhibition featured the works of many talented people who displayed their works for two days to “large crowds.” Prizes were donated and awarded for the best artwork and crafts. There was one photographic display featuring photographs by Dale Radford.

Music and entertainment were provided by the Arias Troubadors of Hemet. They had three strolling musicians and Spanish dancers during the day and at night transformed their group into a band for dancing under the stars.

All proceeds from the event went to the Woman’s Club for the Youth Fund.

Today, 49 years after that first Fiesta Day, Fiesta Day is considered to be the most iconic Canyon Lake event. Considered the granddaddy of all Canyon Lake events, Fiesta Day draws a crowd of more than 10,000 people.

In 2002, Herendich was honored with a special place in the Fiesta Day parade for founding the concept of Fiesta Day in 1973.

Editor’s note: Traditionally, Fiesta Day kicks off with a hometown parade. Our research did not uncover when the first parade was added to Fiesta Day. Articles dated in 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.

An article printed the month before the first Fiesta Day featured a registration form for a Miss Canyon Lake Contest that was to be held during Fiesta Day at 1 p.m. at the lodge; however, the Fiesta Day follow-up article made no mention of the contest. At this time, it is unknown if the contest was held or canceled.

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Editor, The Canyon Lake Chamber of Commerce would like to thank our sponsors, our board of directors, the event volunteers, the City of Canyon Lake, and the Canyon Lake Property