LOS BANOS — A celebration that's part religious and part cultural and nearly 100 years old kicks off today.
The 99th annual Holy Ghost Festa, which stretches over three days, is steeped in the traditions of the Portuguese immigrants who settled on the West Side.
Committee President Rosalyn Garcia said she expects several hundred to attend the Sunday procession and meal. Sopas, a Portuguese soup of meat, bread and cabbage, is on the menu.
"It's like an all-day thing," Garcia said. "We get people from all over."
Organizations from Merced County, the Bay Area and other parts of California have a presence at the celebration, she said.
The celebration dates back 800 years to Queen Isabel of Portugal and is celebrated eight weeks after Easter Sunday.
It has broadened to encompass the entire community, Garcia said, adding that volunteers and revelers come from all walks of life.
A number of Portuguese dances and musical groups are on tap to perform, as well as the Los Banos High School Band.
Tonight's opening, begins with the family rosary at 8 p.m. at the DES Hall, 1155 I St., followed by music.
A Mass is planned at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 1621 Center Ave., followed by the rosary at the DES Hall chapel. After 7:30, music, dancing and introductions for the festa queens and committee are planned.
The formal procession, which features queens and organizations from nearby towns, is Sunday and will leave the DES Hall at 9 a.m. en route to St. Joseph's.
After the coronation of the festa queen, the procession heads back to the DES Hall for a sopas banquet and dancing until the late evening.