Parade celebrates swallows return
If they have marked their calendars correctly, the swallows will have returned to San Juan Capistrano this week, arriving as legend goes, on St. Joseph's Day, March 19.
Whether the birds meet deadline or not, the human party goes on. The centerpiece is the 2012 Swallows Day Parade to be held Saturday. Organizers tout it as "the nation's largest non-motorized parade."
The 54th annual Swallows Day Parade will hit the streets of San Juan Capistrano with lots of horses, dancers and some 3,000 people participating in the 11/2-mile route along El Camino Real, Del Obispo Street and Camino Capistrano.
The Swallows Day Parade is the centerpiece of the Fiesta de la Golondrinas, marking the birds' migratory return from a winter in Argentina. It's a local version of the arrival of spring, with the Spring Equinox usually occurring March 20.
The Swallows Celebration began centuries ago when mission padres observed that the birds' return roughly coincided with St. Joseph's Day on the church calendar. The celebration has achieved international prominence since then, turning San Juan Capistrano into a tourist attraction long before Disneyland.
The theme of this year's parade is "How the West was Fun!" It is put together by the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association. Police will close streets at 10 a.m., with the parade starting at 11 a.m. Along with the parade will be the "Mercado" – or Mexican-style market. Up to 100 vendors will sell their wares at Historic Town Center Park off El Camino Real and Ortega Highway
A tradition of the event is the annual Hoos'gow. Legend has it that it's where the term "hoosegow" or "lock-up" comes from. That's Old West talk for the jail. Fiesta Association "deputies" roam the city "arresting" clean-shaven men and other "city slickers" and locking them in a portable clink. Bail is set pretty low: Pay (or get your bail bondsmen/relatives/friends) to fork over a few dollars for a fiesta souvenir.
Some years, birds can be scarce. Development around the mission and other changes in weather and topography have cut the number of birds over the decades. But in 2010, the timing worked out. Michele Lawrence Adams, executive director of Mission San Juan Capistrano, proclaimed it "a miracle" after swallows were seen in the foothills nearby.
Register correspondent David Bro and Register Travel Editor Gary A. Warner contributed to this report.
Swallows Day Parade
Parking: Officials suggest exiting I-5 at Junipero Serra Road and parking at the Endevco and Fluidmaster parking lots, 30700 Rancho Viejo Road and 30800 Rancho Viejo, where shuttles will be available. A bus also is scheduled to serve San Juan Capistrano Community Center, 25925 Camino del Avion. The shuttle service will run from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. for $2 round trip for adults. Children 12 and younger ride free.
Road closures: Many streets will be subject to closure as early as 4 a.m. and as late as 8 p.m.
More info: Call 949-493-1976 or visitswallowsparade.org.