La Merienda

Monterey History and Art Association’s 86th Annual La Merienda!

June 3, 2017
11:15 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Memory Garden, 20 Custom House Plaza, Monterey

The community is invited to celebrate the 86th Annual Monterey History and Art La Merienda and the City of Monterey’s 247th birthday with a very special barbecue buffet extravaganza, with entertainment by Mike Marotta, Jr. & special guests, mariachis, and folklorico dancers, and a festive “Californio” party in the historic Memory Garden on Custom House Plaza on Saturday, June 4, 2016. 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. All guests are also welcome to dress in 18th century costume.


$55 per ticket for MHAA members; $65 per ticket for non-MHAA members

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La Merienda 2017

For more information call (831) 372-2311 or email

If you would like to be seated with a friend or at a specific hostess’ table, please call or email so that we can make those arrangements if possible.

Barbecue Buffet Extravaganza!

The La Merienda Barbecue Buffet Extravaganza will feature Seasoned Certified Angus Beef New York Steak, BBQ Chicken Breast, BBQ Mild Italian Sausage, BBQ Salmon, Sauteed Scampi Shrimp, Fresh Fruit & Berries mix, Pasta Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, Fresh Basil, Red Onions tossed in Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar, Mixed Tanimura & Antle Salad Greens tossed with Mango, Papaya, Candied Walnuts, Gorgonzola Cheese in balsamic vinaigrette, Garlic Bread, Fresh Made Salsa, Fresh Made Chile Beans and Fire Roasted Sweet Corn. Included with the meal will be wine, soft drinks and Peter B’s light and dark beer. This mouth-watering feast will be followed by the traditional outstanding dessert, a beautiful 75-lb birthday cake from Layers Bakery donated by Tina Del Piero and Lynn Tomlinson and decorated with fresh roses by Jackie Craghead.

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! 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! This outstanding party attracts over 500 people each year.

La Merienda para los Ninos

Children and grandchildren of attendees 4 to 11 years old may celebrate with their very own “La Merienda para los Ninos” held concurrently at the MHAA/Stanton Center, featuring a full program of activities including participation in the cake ceremony.

About La Merienda

La Merienda, Monterey’s 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, 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 and 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 and 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).

More About La Merienda

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, accompanied by a chaperone (“La Duena”) can trace their ancestry back through Monterey history many generations. These attractive 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 75-lb 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 and Art Association. This event has been sponsored annually by the Monterey History and Art Association for 85 years. Members of Monterey History and Art Association serve as voluntary hosts and hostesses in period costumes at colorfully decorated tables. All guests are also welcome to dress in 18th century costume.

The recipient of Monterey History and Art Association’s most prestigious award, the Laura Bride Powers Award, is announced at 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. The 2015 Laura Bride Powers Award recipients were John Burk and Darnell Whitt.

The colorful celebration is held in the Memory Gardens, located near the Custom House Plaza in historic downtown Monterey behind the Portola Plaza Hotel. Festivities begin at 11:15 A. M. with dancing. The doors open to Memory Gardens where the aromas of the delicious barbeque greet the guests. Day-long entertainment includes music by Mike Marotta Jr. & special guests, Mariachis and folklorico dancers as well as a procession of local and international dignitaries and costumed ladies and gentlemen, reenacting an old tradition. There will also be a 50-50 drawing and a silent auction. The gaily-decorated tables are hosted by more than 50 MHAA volunteers, who provide hospitality to the guests. After the Barbecue Buffet Extravaganza (served by another 25 well-known elected officials and local volunteers) the traditional Merienda birthday cake is paraded around the Garden and then cut and served with much ceremony.

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. Leon Panetta, Dan Albert, Dan Baldwin, Ted Balestreri, Sr., Teddy Balestreri, Bill Curtis, Marc and Eric DelPiero, Jay Hudson, George Kodama, Nino Palma, Dave Potter, Carmelo Tringali, Russ Harris, Bert Cutino, Tony Leyva, Bob Masarro, Sal Ferrante, Dino Ferrante and John Lotz compose some of the barbecue team in the recent past. The 2016 La Merienda crew will be determined closer to the event date!

La Merienda sponsorships, donations and other services help to defray the cost of this unique not-to-be-missed Monterey celebration. Media sponsors of the 85th Annual La Merienda include KSBW 8 and Central Coast ABC.

All proceeds above the cost of the Merienda itself go to Monterey History and Art Association’s support and maintenance of the Museum of Monterey at Stanton Center, Casa Serrano, the Doud House and the Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Library. To become a MHAA member, sponsor or donor, please call Larry Chavez, President of the Monterey History & Art Association, at (831) 869-1664 or email