Those wanting a glimpse of old world culture from Portugal and the Azores didn't have to go further than Gustine's Our Lady of Miracles Celebration over the weekend.
Known by most as the Gustine Festa, the nine-day event began Aug. 30 and continues through today.
About 5,000 attended over the weekend. Saturday's festivities included folkloric dancing, a candlelight mass and a dance with music from the band "Progresso." Sunday's event included a parade of queens and side maids. A bloodless bullfight is scheduled to happen tonight at Bella Vista Park.
Saturday morning's festivities included a parade called the Bodo de Leite parade, with cows and carriages traveling through downtown Gustine to Henry Miller Park.
Free milk, sweet bread and cheese were given out after the parade, which is a tradition in the dairy-rich Azores, where they have a similar event during the same week.
Cheyenne Marcotte, 37, of Elk Grove came to the event with daughters Amanda, 5, and Julia, 7, who were dressed as a Little Queen and side maid. Many at the event were dressed in period clothing of the early twentieth century.
"It's great for the little kids to be involved and participate in it. Something that's so deep in our culture and also very special that it's for Our Lady of Miracles," Marcotte said. "It's an honor for the girls to have been queen and side maid. We had a great time traveling, representing Gustine this year at all the other festas."
According to the website www.ourladyofmiracles.com, the Catholic celebration was imported from the town of Serreta on the island of Terceira in the Azores.
"They're having their festa in Serreta the same weekend that we're having ours in California," said Cindy Costa, 36, of Hilmar, who came to the festa with her husband, Nelson Costa, 37. The couple's parents immigrated to the United States from the Azores in the 70s.
The Costas have been coming to the Gustine Festa for most of their lives.
"A lot of people came here (from the Azores), and they didn't have much to their name, but they had their faith. So that's what they brought with them, and they started this festa here for Our Lady of Miracles because she does so many miracles in our lives," Cindy Costa said.
"It keeps the culture alive for sure. The religion, you know, that's what brings everybody together; the Catholic faith and Our Lady," Nelson Costa said.
"People unite and pray. We've been praying for nine days straight, and people are going to spend the night here praying to Our Lady all night."
A shrine of Our Lady of Miracles was set up in Henry Miller Park where much of the Saturday festivities took place.
The Costas noted Gustine's event is one of the biggest festas in California, and it's regarded as the biggest annual event in Gustine. The couple said people are sure to attend because of its emotional and spiritual nature.
"This is where everybody gets together to see old friends," said Nelson Costa.
Chris Winterfeldt can be reached at email@example.com.