PARK CITY, Utah — Every year, a group of local Barbaras come together to celebrate St. Barbara Day, named after the patron saint of artillerymen and miners, the legendary virgin martyr Saint Barbara.
According to the 7th-century legend, St. Barbara was the daughter of the pagan Dioscorus, who kept her guarded in a tower to protect her. When she committed to Christianity and rejected marriage, he became enraged and beheaded her. Upon his return home, Dioscorus was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes.
In 1999, Barbara Bretz, one of the lead organizers, met Barbara Fontaine of Santa Barbara, California, who created the group in Park City in the 90s.
Fontaine later moved to Virginia, leaving the “committee of three Barbs” (Barb Bretz, Barb Maben, and Barb Svoboda) to organize the party through the years. “It is just a hoot,” Svoboda said about the annual event.
After being forced to cancel their plans last year because of the pandemic, the group met for the first time in two years at Windy Ridge Cafe on Saturday afternoon.
The internet has been vital in recruiting new Barbaras moving into the area. Before the digital era, Bretz said Fontaine was “vigilant” about recruiting newcomers. “Any Barbara that moved to town, and she’d come into contact with, she’s like, I need your number, I’m going to add you to our list,” Bretz said about Fontaine.
“Back then, it was strictly phone numbers and snail mail addresses. And so, of course, since email and social media, it’s been a lot easier to put the word out and stay in touch with each other, and you know, send out invitations. Just the whole communication element, it’s a lot easier.”
Bretz said the first-ever Barbara party had about eight to ten attendees. Despite only having around 27 attend the brunch on Saturday, she said they have roughly 80 on their list. Some chose not to come due to Covid concerns.
“There’s a big diversity of age,” Bretz said. She said the ages range from the late 30s to mid-80s. “We’ve got doctors, we’ve got teachers, and we’ve got a mother that flies in from — I forget where she lives — to visit her daughter who lives here. They’re both named Barbara, and they both come to the party.”
Between 1937 and 1944, Barbara was the second most popular name in the US. According to behindthename.com, Barbara ranked #899 for most popular female names in 2020.
Bretz thanked Windy Ridge for welcoming the group. If you are a Barbara or know a local Barbara, you can contact Bretz at firstname.lastname@example.org.