"It's a very important event for us, and the thing is, it gives us a religious tradition we can pass on to our children and the coming generations," said Vangie Carapinha, an organizer of the Festa, who is both the daughter and the mother of a Festa Queen and was herself a queen. Her granddaughter, Sofia Adão, is this year's Small Queen.
The practice of honoring young women as queens in the Portuguese community can be traced back to 14th century Portugal, when Queen Isabel hid bread beneath her cape in order to feed the poor.
According to legend, King Dinis found her with a bundle under her cape one day, and demanded that she show him the bread she was hiding. Reluctantly, she opened her cape only to find that all the bread had turned to roses. She was known for various miracles and was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1625. Isabel is also known as Queen Saint Elizabeth, and today's Festa queens are crowned in her honor.
Visiting queens and their entourages came from communities all over the Central Valley and Bay Area to participate in Oakley's Festa. The presiding priest crowns two queens, one child and one young adult, using ornate traditional crowns imported from Portugal.
Oakley's event actually began on Saturday with a mass at Flor do Oakley Hall, where the queens were presented and a dance ensued. Sunday's festivities began at the hall with a three-block-long parade that slowly threaded through the streets of Oakley and terminated at Saint Anthony's Catholic Church on O'Hara Avenue.
The procession was led by a fire engine and consisted of visiting queens from other Festa organizations, their male escorts, families and friends, visiting Festa officials, two bands and a large Sheriff's Department contingent to provide traffic control.
A mass was held at the church, the queens were crowned by Father Fernando and the procession returned to the hall, where sopas e carne was served to a crowd of hundreds. The meal included spiced meat simmered slowly, served with cabbage and sweet bread soaked with au jus. All kinds of drinks were offered for sale, including Portuguese beer. Later, a large auction was held and a performance of "Portugal in California" concluded the festivities.
Oakley Festa President Emidio Fonseca, who has been participating in Festas for 50 years, led the parade. Oakley's 2007-08 Festa Queen is Lindsey Smith and the Small Queen is Sofia Adão. Their sidemaids are Gina Vargas, Verranda Byrone, Julia Da Silva and Alyssa Sequeira.
Queen Smith said, "I like doing this because I like the idea of representing someone of traditional importance. I'm proud of my roots, and this gives me a chance to show it."