SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A Lompoc dance studio has been part of the Santa Barbara's Old Spanish Days for almost two decades, but this will be the first year without its biggest fan riding along.
Jeanice Lugo rode the Gracia Dance Studio float for 17 years in the Old Spanish Day Parade, but after dying of cancer in January, her spot will be empty this year.
Marissa Urzua, Lugo's granddaughter, said, "She would just sit in the back with the music play and her maracas. She was just so cute, and we still have her spot for her this year."
"If my mom was here she would be so happy to be on the float. That's all she loved to do more than anything was ride on the float with all the beautiful dancers," explained Lugo's daughter and Garcia Studio Director Laura Garcia.
Garcia Dance Studio is family-run and started in Lompoc, and it has now expanded to Santa Maria and Buellton.
With over 150 dancers, both Lugo's daughter and granddaughter are performers and instructors, and this year they are dancing in her honor.
"It's going to be hard, but it actually makes us smile even bigger because we know she's looking down on us and is so proud of us and everything we've done," said Garcia.
Not only did Lugo ride the float, but she helped build, decorate and organize the fiesta float.
Urzua said, "She would always joke around and say that she would do everything and helps us do everything on the float as long as she could be on it."
So as the girls put on their skirts, place the flowers in their hair and make the final touches to the float, the Garcia Dance Studio will be honoring its biggest fan
"We're going to make it the most beautiful float in the whole parade," said Garcia.