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Instrumental in the organization and support of Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days and Rodeo for more than 50 years, it only seems right to honor them with a fiesta of their own.

To that end, the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum created a prelude party both to pay tribute to Josiah “Si” and Karen Jenkins and to raise funds for the museum, executive director Chis Bashfoth says. The event – Fiesta Preludio de Santa Ynez – is set for at 5:30 pm. on Friday, July 27, in the museum’s courtyard. “We hope folks will come out and enjoy a wonderful summer evening of food, friendship and fiesta fun,” says Gary Nett, committee co-chairman.

Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Si graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1951. But even before graduation, he began his career at Jedlicka’s. It all started in 1946 when the now two-location western wear and saddlery was nothing more than a small shoe repair shop in a string of little stores on what was then Hollister Avenue – Highway 101.

It wasn’t Si’s first job – that was at Sunset Stables. Way back then, Karen bumped into Si now and again. She laughs as she recalls. They were both then, and still are now, avid horsemen. Karen was an incoming freshman as Si was an outgoing senior, so he didn’t ask her out, she says. Later in life, that would all change, but first came a lot of changes at Jedlicka’s.

Starting as a sweep-out boy, Si took an interest in the finish work and detailing George “Jed” Jedlicka did in addition to the shoe repair. Si wasn’t the only one. Since 1932, when Jed first opened, his reputation for quality began to grow and he soon began making saddles and boots, not just repairing them.

Si learned how to finish the edges of the leather straps, smoothing, rounding and adding the small details that shout quality. “I just got to like it,” he says simply. So did the costumers. As word of the quality of the leather goods spread, horse lovers of all ilks began flocking to the store.

One by one, Jedlicka’s took over the space once belonging to the other small stores in the strip along the road, which eventually was renamed De La Vina. Jed wasn’t much of a customer’s man, says Si.

He relays a story of how Jed once made a “simply beautifully crafted pair of suspenders” for a customer. When they didn’t meet with the accolades expected, Jed took a pair of scissors to them, Si recalls shaking his head.

Si had a way with customers Jed did not, so Si helped up front more than he did in the back. It was Paul Sollosy, says Si, who expanded Jedlicka’s to include western wear, taking on top labels such as Levi’s and Stetson Hats.

Perhaps Si was even wearing one of those Stetson hats when he went riding at the Montecito Riding Club, where by happenstance, Karen also was. This time he noticed her. Fifty years ago last summer, the pair were married. They have two children: Josiah, who now helps his father run the stores, and Dorothy, CPA.

But Jed and his wife had no children of their own. “I guess you could more or less say I was like a son to him,” says Si. So, Jed incorporated Jedlicka’s and thereafter, each year gifted Si stock. In the late 1960s, Jed had a stroke, and the responsibilities of running the business fell to Si.

In 1977, to serve the needs of the horsemen of the Valley, the Los Olivos location was opened in what once was a blacksmith’s shop. “When the store opened up there, it was really sparse,” says Karen of the town. Now, that store sees more tourists than cowboys.

But however busy the stores keep them, Karen and Si always make time to be involved in their community – especially Old Spanish Days and the Rodeo. Si reminisces how way back then it was his job to collect the rent for the stalls at 50 cents each, now it’s more like $75.

He shies away from focusing too much attention on the things he has done to support both Santa Barbara and the Valley, but then that is what the event set to honor them is all about. It is only fitting that it is also a fundraiser for the privately funded museum the Jenkins are so supportive of.

The evening includes entertainment by folklorico dancers, special prize-filled piñatas, a New York Strip dinner and live auction, says Bashforth. Tickets, the purchase of which is required in advance, are $75 per person – a portion of which is tax-deductible.

With a reception of fiesta-inspired appetizers and no-host bar featuring the museum’s signature margaritas. Hale Fletcher, Santa Barbara Fiesta Rodeo announcer, will lead an auction of private dinners, weekend get-away packages, adventure outings and more.

All proceeds will benefit the museum’s educational programs, history exhibitions, curatorial activities and general operation of the museum and Parks-Janeway Carriage House, says Bashforth.

struax@syvjournal.com