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The Swallows Trickle In

San Juan Capistrano will mark the birds' annual return with a parade and fair Saturday

March 20, 2012|Dan Weikel
  • With few swallows at Mission San Juan Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day, other avian performers took the stage at the old mission.
With few swallows at Mission San Juan Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day,… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

The air may be chilly from the weekend's winter storm, but San Juan Capistrano is gearing up for spring by celebrating the annual return of the swallows.

Monday was Swallows' Day for Mission San Juan Capistrano, where lore has it that cliff swallows return each year just in time for St. Joseph's Day after wintering 6,000 miles away in Argentina.

Although the gregarious birds have hardly been seen at the historic mission in recent years, swallows nest in small numbers elsewhere, in the eaves of schools, shopping malls and underneath freeway overpasses. They can often be seen feeding on insects early in the morning or at dusk.

"I know they are around because I have seen them," said Jeff Schroeder, a member of the event's executive board. "They will be coming in sporadically over the next 30 to 45 days."

San Juan Capistrano will hold its 54th annual Swallows' Day Parade and street fair Saturday, featuring about 3,200 participants, more than 500 horses, 11 marching bands and dozens of entries that celebrate the city's Spanish, Western and Juaneno Indian heritage.

This year's festival theme is celebrating the Old West. About 35,000 to 40,000 visitors are expected to attend what has become one of the largest non-motorized parades in the nation.

The 1.5-mile parade is to begin at 11 a.m. on El Camino Real at Ortega Highway and move along Del Obispo Road to Camino Capistrano, then head north back toward the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The parade is expected to last more than two hours.

The Mercado Street Faire will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the historic Town Center Park off El Camino Real at Ortega Highway. Organizers say the fair will feature about 100 vendors selling crafts, clothing, games, food, beer and wine. Rick and the Working Cowboy Band will provide country western music.

San Juan Capistrano will close its streets in the festival and parade area at 10 a.m. Motorists can find parking on the perimeter of the event.

Shuttle service will be available at the Endevco and Fluidmaster parking lots off Rancho Viejo Road or at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center and Sports Park off Camino Del Avion near Del Obispo. The shuttles will run from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. The cost is $2 for a round trip. Children under 12 are free.

Metrolink commuter rail service also will be available.

For more information, call (949) 493-1976 or go online to www.swallowsparade.org.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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