Laura Azevedo Fell Madly In Love At HMB’s Chamarita

chamarita1.jpg (Photo: 1928 Holy Ghost Festival, Half Moon Bay).

When Laura Canadas Azevedo was 15 years-old in 1920, the Half Moon Bay teenager looked forward to the annual Chamarita, an evening of dancing during the historic Holy Ghost Festival–a time of thanksgiving for the Coastside’s Portuguese community.

(Only on the Coastside is the event dubbed the “Chamarita–other Portuguese-American communities refer to the event as the “Holy Ghost Festival.”}

It was easy to understand that for Laura and her girlfriends, the dancing was the best part of the three-day religious celebration. The highlight for both young and old was the traditional Portguese folk dance called “the Chamarita.”

“Our families taught us to dance at the Chamarita,” Laura Azevedo told me.We would waltz, polka and do the fox trot. We would also do ‘schotises’. It’s a folk dance step,” she explained, eager to demonstrate. “It went, one, two, hop.”

Laura vividly recalled the pink Georgette dress she wore. “It was long waisted, beaded down the front and sleeveless with a scooped-out neckline.”

She stood among a sea of pretty Coastside girls, all chaperoned, waiting to be asked to dance–when a very good-looking fellow from nearby Higgins Canyon showed interest in her. His name was Fred Azevedo. He had never met Laura and asked a friend about the stunning young lady in the pink dress.

Laura felt lightheaded and flattered when Fred Azevedo slowly walked towards her.

“Fred asked me to dance,” she said, reliving that romantic, unforgettable moment. “We danced and danced and danced.”

Four years later the couple wed and moved from Half Moon Bay to Burlingame where Fred Azevedo operated the first Yellow Cab Company.

[In 2000, when I re-interviewed Laura Azevedo, she was 96-years-old]

2 Chamarita Queens: Angie Praeder & Minnie Valladao

In 1980 I was fortunate to meet and interview Half Moon Bay’s Angie Praeder and Minnie Valladao–it was for the documentary [“Mystery of Half Moon Bay”] that I was working on. The beautiful ladies, both former Chamarita Queens, were filmed, but unfortunately–the video was left on the cutting room floor, as they say. Boy, I wish that hadn’t happened.

Here’s what happened that day:

Close-up of Angie, close-up of Minnie

Angie Praeder (AP): I was born in 1899, here in Half Moon Bay. I was chosen (as Chamarita Queen) when I was 19-years-old.

AP: My father was a member of the society…it was just by luck…they drew the tickets and I was lucky enough to have my name drawn and that’s how I became queen.

AP: I wore a plain dress, just a plain dress and no crown. They didn’t wear a cape then either. I was really happy about it, seems like all the girls were. Everybody liked to be queen.

AP: The march started at the IDES Hall, down Main Street and into the Catholic Church. There was a mass and the crown was blessed.

AP: The barbecue was free. The farmers donated meat. Some donated wine, some bread.

AP: I can remember if that many people came who weren’t from Half Moon Bay. See, there weren’t that many cars then, so it was mostly just people from around here.

AP: And at that time we knew everybody. Now it’s so different. You don’t know half the people. It’s really the truth. It’s all outsiders.

AP: The crown was heavy, 30 pounds.

Minnie Valladao (MV): I was born in 1905. When I was chosen queen, I was 17-years-old–that was in 1922.

MV: The “little queen” does the same thing as the “big queen.”

MV: I wore a white dress, kind of fancy. Today the girls wear capes. Otherwise, there’s not too much different.

MV: I was proud to be queen. It was really an honor.

cutaways including Angie Praeder holding a photo of herself as the Chamarita Queen.