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Swallows Day Parade (Fiesta de las Golondrinas)

San Juan Capistrano’s 64th Annual Swallows Day Parade celebration will take place Saturday, March 23, 2024 and will feature Matt Gaffney as Grand Marshall. Festival of the Swallows or Fiesta de las Golondrinas celebrates the annual return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano and is one of the nation’s largest non-motorized parades in the U.S. The parade and festival also pays tribute to the City’s Spanish, American Western, and Juaneño Indian heritage.

Swallows Day Parade

Swallows Day Parade

Swallows Day Parade Website | Facebook
Swallows Day Parade Map

Where: Historic Los Rios neighborhood in San Juan Capistrano
Parade Start Time: Starts at 11 A.M.
Arrive early, most street closures are in effect by 10 A.M.
Awards Ceremony: 2 P.M. at Historic Town Center Park
The Mercado Food & Family Fun Hours: 9 A.M. until 5 P.M.
Date: Saturday, March 23, 2024
Grand Marshall: Matt Gaffney

Things to Do at the Swallows Day Parade

  1. Watch the parade: The non-motorized parade features a military flyover and a variety of horse drawn floats, carriages, wagons, marching bands, equestrian groups, Folklórico dancers, mariachi bands, and other participants. It starts at the Mercado in the historic Los Rios neighborhood and proceeds through the downtown area, ending at the Mission of San Juan Capistrano.
  2. Mercado Street Faire: Available all day, there will be vendors selling food, drinks, and unique crafts and Western wear. The whole family can eat, dance, play, shop and listen to live music.
  3. Enjoy live music: There will be live country music performances throughout the day, featuring local bands and musicians. There is also a Swallows Day Official Post Parade Concert at the Inn at the Mission.
  4. Awards Ceremony: The parade awards ceremony is held at Historic Town Center Park (HTC) following the parade.
  5. Family-friendly activities: There will be a variety of activities for children and families, such as face painting, arts & crafts, and games. There is a kid’s play zone in the Historic Town Center Park.
  6. Restaurant & Bars: Eat and drink at local restaurants including the famous Swallows Inn.
  7. Visit the mission: The parade route ends at the mission, visitors can take a tour of the mission and learn about its history and the annual return of the swallows.
  8. Cultural celebration: The Swallows Day Parade is considered a cultural celebration, visitors can learn more about the cultural significance of the event and the swallows’ return, as well as the area’s rich history.

Free Parade Parking & Shuttle Bus

There is a free shuttle bus that runs from 8:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. Free parking and the shuttle bus can be found at Fluidmaster (30800 Rancho Viejo Road) and the Capistrano Business Plaza (30250 Rancho Viejo Road on the east side of the Interstate 5.) The shuttle bus will drop off at the Old Fire Station, corner of El Horno and La Matanza streets, a short jaunt to downtown.

Metrolink Train

Avoid the hassle by taking Metrolink. Get off at the San Juan Capistrano station, walk straight up to the traffic light and you have arrived.

Swallow’s Day Post Parade Concert

The Swallow’s Day Official Post Parade Country Concert will be held at The Inn At The Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Additional Festival of Swallows Events

All these events take place on different dates but are intertwined with the Swallows Day Parade and Mercado Street Faire.

  • Taste of San Juan – Thursday, February 1, 2024
  • Kids Pet Parade – Saturday, February 24, 2024
  • El Presidenté Ball – Saturday March 16, 2024
  • Fiesta Grandé – Wednesday, March 20, 2024
  • Frog Jumping Contest – Friday, March 22, 2024
  • Hoos’Gow Day – Friday, March 22, 2024
  • Farewell to the Swallows BBQ – TBA

St. Joseph’s Day and the Return of the Swallows Celebration

The miracle of the “Swallows” of Capistrano is another annual event held at Mission San Juan Capistrano, on March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day. The Mission and the city of San Juan Capistrano welcomes visitors from all over world to witness the return of the swallows, a celebratory tradition since the 1930s.

Activities include Ringing of the historic bells, Live Mariachi music, Community presentations, Native American Storytelling, Flamenco dance performance, History of St. Joseph’s Day and Swallows Legend, Virtual Lecture on the State of the Swallows, Coloring Pages, Complimentary Tours, Craft Station for Kids and more!

Swallows Day Parade History

The history of the Swallows Day Parade dates back to the 1950s, when it was a school carnival. Beginning in 1958 a small and passionate group of residents turn the carnival into an equestrian and Western parade.

The parade and festival is organized and presented by the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association.

Swallows of San Juan Capistrano in Pop culture

“When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano”

“When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” is a song written by Leon René when he was inspired to write the song after hearing a live radio broadcast about the swallows’ return. The Ink Spots first recorded the song in 1940 and reached #4 on the US charts. A recording by Glenn Miller reached #2 the same year and the song was later recorded by Fred Waring, Guy Lombardo, Billy May, and Pat Boone.

“When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That’s the day you promised to come back to me
When you whispered, “Farewell”, in Capistrano
Twas the day the swallow flew out to sea” ~ Leon René

Salmon of Capistrano

The San Juan Capistrano’s swallows made their way into pop culture again in the movie “Dumb and Dumber” when Jim Carrey comedically mixed-up the swallows with salmon.

“A place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano.” ~ Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey)

About the Swallows of San Juan Capistrano

Cliff swallows have broad pointed wings and a squared tail with metallic, dark-blue backs and pale cinnamon rumps. Their face is rusty with white foreheads. They are highly social songbirds that travel in large flocks feeding on insects including ladybugs, bees and flies. The birds build mud nests that are lined with grass and feathers and the females lay from one to a half dozen eggs.

The arrival of the swallows from Goya, Argentina to the San Juan Capistrano area usually takes place on or around St. Joseph’s day, March 19th each year. The swallows leave San Juan Capistrano around the Day of San Juan (October 23) and head back to their wintering grounds in Argentina, 6,000 miles south.

San Juan Capistrano is a bird sanctuary, outlawing the destruction of swallow nests and encourages residents to care for the Cities famous birds.

Swallows of San Juan Capistrano

Why the Swallows Stopped Returning to Mission of San Juan Capistrano

Dating back to the early 1800s, the swallows returned each year to the Mission. But the mud nests were removed from the overhangs during a restoration during the 1990s and the birds relocated elsewhere. In an effort to lure the swallows back, man-made nests were created. These efforts appeared to work and slowly the Swallows have returned. 

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Monique McArthur
Monique McArthur is a mother of two, writer, and creator of delicious recipes. In her spare time she enjoys exploring all that Orange County has to offer, traveling, shopping, running with her dogs and spending time with family.