The City’s oldest annual event was held on Saturday, June 4, 2022 in the Memory Garden on Custom House Plaza. For the past 90 years, the Monterey History & Art Association has hosted this community fiesta to commemorate the 1770 founding of the City of Monterey when Father Junipero Serra and Captain Gaspar de Portola celebrated with a picnic overlooking the Monterey Bay and the 1931 founding of MHAA.
All proceeds above the cost of La Merienda itself go to Monterey History & Art Association’s support and maintenance of Casa Serrano, Doud House & Garden, Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Library, Sloat Landing and Salvador Dali Exhibition at Stanton Center. You can become a MHAA member, sponsor or donor here. MHAA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Tax ID# 94-1517208.
La Merienda celebrates the City of Monterey’s 252nd birthday with a very special BARBECUE BUFFET EXTRAVAGANZA, a five-star culinary experience created by the OLD FISHERMAN’S GROTTO CHEFS and the VIP Merienda Barbecue Committee headed by Chris Shake, which includes Certified Angus Beef New York Steak, BBQ chicken breast, mild Italian sausage, salmon, Paella, 3 salad choices: mixed greens, pasta, and fruit salad, fire roasted sweet corn, fresh-made chili beans, corn bread, fresh-made salsa and more. Like last year, there will also be a NEW special culinary surprise! Included with the meal are complimentary wine, beer, coffee, tea and soft drinks. The feast is followed by the traditional outstanding dessert, a beautiful multi-layered birthday cake from Layers Bakery donated by Tina Del Piero and Lynn Tomlinson and decorated with fresh roses by Jackie Craghead. The cake is cut ceremoniously with the historic sword of Colonel Fitch.
La Merienda also features Master of Ceremonies David Marzetti and outstanding entertainment by local legend and accordion player extraordinaire Mike Marotta Jr. and his special guests, mariachis and folkorico dancers. The VIP Barbecue Committee is composed of local elected officials and well-known community members that prepare and serve the food at this event. Gallant dons, donas and senoritas in 18th century costumes will be the order of the day at this festive “Californio” party. There will also be a Silent Auction. All guests are also welcome to dress in 18th century costume if they wish.
A Local Tradition
Each year since La Merienda was founded, a local young woman with historic connections to Monterey is chosen as La Favorita, and with her lovely court, reigns over this unique celebration of Monterey’s history. Two other young women are selected to serve as her attendants (“Doncellas”). The women who are chosen for these roles are accompanied by a chaperone (“La Duena”). These young women dress in traditional white Spanish gowns and mantillas (scarfs) and greet guests, cut the birthday cake and hold court at the celebration.
The recipient of the 2020 Laura Bride Powers Award, Monterey History & Art Association’s most prestigious award, will be honored at this year’s La Merienda. This award is named after the woman who is credited with conceiving both the idea of the Association and the Merienda celebration, which antedated MHAA’s founding. Mrs. Powers was the Curator of the Custom House and First Theater and an ardent student of California history.
Community Members are invited to Host a Party Within the Party!
La Merienda can be described as a “party within a party” with uniquely decorated hosted tables. Attendees invite friends, don a costume, decorate a table, and have fun at this festive event! Local companies are encouraged to purchase a table for their staff or special customers. Or, just come for the celebration, join a table and make some new friends. Meet elected officials, military leaders, and local dignitaries at this not-to-be-missed annual event!
Sponsorships are available to underwrite the cost of La Merienda. La Merienda’s valued sponsors in 2019 were Anthony Lombardo & Associates, Candy World, Cannery Row Company, Cima Colina, Fenton and Keller, 1st Capital Bank, Mahoney & Associates, Mission Linen, Monterey Bay Restaurant Equipment, Monterey County Bank, Law Offices of Nicora & Hespe, Morgan Stanley, Old Fisherman’s Grotto, Portola Hotel & Spa, Peter B’s Brew Pub, Rabobank and Shankle Real Estate.
La Merienda Barbecue Committee
The La Merienda Barbecue is always served by well-known community members. In past years, La Merienda Barbecue servers have included Peter Coniglio, who coordinated this part of the event in the past for over 40 years, with Chris Shake taking it on in 2015.
The 2019 Annual La Merienda Barbecue Committee included:
Honorable Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and Director of CIA, Congressman Jimmy Panetta, State Assemblyman Mark Stone, Monterey County Supervisor Mary Adams, Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal, Former Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo, City of Monterey Councilman Dan Albert, Jr., Former City of Monterey Mayor Dan Albert, Sr. District Attorney Jeannine Pancioni, Honorable Judge Stephanie Hulsey, City of Carmel Mayor Dave Potter and other community leaders.
La Merienda (Spanish word for picnic) includes great food and entertainment, a procession, and much, much more. This not-to-be missed very special community event celebrates the founding of the City of Monterey in June 1770 when Father Junipero Serra (recently canonized as a Saint by Pope Francis) and Captain Gaspar de Portola celebrated with a picnic overlooking the Monterey Bay.
La Merienda, Monterey’s annual birthday party, is a colorful fiesta barbecue of delicious foods, wine, beer, soft drinks, gallant dons and donas, lovely senoritas, lively music and festive dance. La Merienda (the Spanish term for afternoon picnic or mid-day meal) re-enacts an elegant 18th century fiesta. It celebrates the founding of the town of Monterey on June 3, 1770 when Padre Junípero Serra, father of the California missions (now Saint Serra), and Captain Gaspar de Portola, a Spanish military leader, joined forces to establish the pueblo of Monterey, California’s first Capital. Their meeting also honored the founding of the “Royal Presidio Chapel”, which today is known as San Carlos Cathedral.
After the ceremonies that day, everyone sat down for a picnic under a large oak tree near their ship, the San Antonio, which rested in the harbor. The first modern Merienda was celebrated in 1929, two years before the formation of the Monterey History & Art Association. A ceremony at Colton Hall and a small luncheon at the Memory Garden marked the occasion. It was presided over by Carmel Martin and Harry Greene. The next year, 350 people joined Carmel Martin, who again acted as Master of Ceremonies, in the Memory Garden and once again celebrated Monterey’s birthday. The Monterey History & Art Association has celebrated this important early California historic event every year since the Association was established in 1931 (except one year during World War II).
The large rose-adorned birthday cake is carried in by local young men (“cake-bearers”), and is sliced with the sword of Colonel Roger S. Fitch, the first President of the Monterey History & Art Association.