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Mission San Juan Capistrano to Host Annual St. Joseph's Day and Return of the Swallows

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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (March 9, 2017) -- Mission San Juan Capistrano will host its world-renowned St. Joseph's Day and Return of the Swallows celebration on Sunday, March 19 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Mission's annual celebration of St. Joseph's Day and the Return of the Swallows, a tradition
recognizing the annual return of the famous cliff swallows to Capistrano, was started by Father St. John O'Sullivan in the 1920s and is carried out each year on March 19th.

The day begins with St. Joseph's Day Mass at Mission Basilica beginning at 7:30 a.m. Mission doors open at 9 a.m. with the daily ringing of the historic bells in honor of Saint Junipero Serra.

Just like last year, this year's celebration includes an afternoon concert "Swingin' with the Swallows"
featuring the "Swing Cats Big Band" and the "Swing Kittens Female Trio" from 2-4 p.m. The concert is free with paid admission to the festival.

There also will be ringing of the historic bells, live mariachi music, presentations on the cliff swallows by Dr. Charles Brown (1 p.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. at the Great Stone Church), dance performances, community groups and presentations, local food vendors, and more.

For the second year in a row, the Great Flyover returns to Capistrano. This thrilling experience takes place when WWII AT-6 airplanes fly in formation over Mission San Juan Capistrano in tribute to our nation's veterans on St. Joseph's Day. There will be an official Bell Ringing Ceremony at 11:40 a.m. followed by the Flyover scheduled at noon, weather and conditions permitting. The Flyover is conducted by The Condor Squadron, an organization dedicated to preserving aviation history.

The celebration also is highlighted by Dr. Brown's project, the Swallows Nest Reenactment Exhibit, which was introduced at St. Joseph's Day in 2016. The project still stands in place today to demonstrate what the nests looked like historically on the Great Stone Church ruins.

The number of cliff swallows nesting at the Mission declined gradually over the years as urbanization
simply gave the birds more options to build their nests.

Dr. Brown, a cliff swallows expert and professor of biological sciences at the University of Tulsa,
implemented Phase I -- the Vocalization Project -- in 2012, in which recorded courtship calls were played through a speaker on the Mission grounds to lure the cliff swallows that were flying overhead.

Phase II -- the Swallows Nest Reenactment -- involves using a stationary nest wall arch near the Great Stone Church. According to Dr. Brown, anecdotal evidence suggests the vocalization playbacks at least occasionally bring in passing cliff swallows that fly over the site but do not stay to nest. The goal of Phase II is to increase the stimulus being presented to these passing birds by creating the nest wall arch. Research has shown that cliff swallows prefer to re-use existing nests where possible, as this saves time and energy in building a nest from scratch.

Once the birds notice the plaster nests and begin using them, spillover or additional settling birds likely will lead to them building nests on the walls of the Ruins of the Great Stone Church. And once nests are built, the artificial wall arch would no longer be needed.

Following his two presentations, Dr. Brown will host a Q&A followed by a "meet and greet" and book signing in the Sala Building beginning at 2 p.m.

St. Joseph's Day tours include the seasonal "Swallows Walk & Talk" tour, which includes history of the swallows; Saint Serra's Legacy: History tour of Mission church sites; docent-guided interpretive station tours where Mission docents stand ready to tell stories of Mission history at the Serra Chapel, the Ruins of the Great Stone Church and other stations throughout the Mission; and the audio tour in six languages.

Tickets for St. Joseph's Day and Return of the Swallows celebration are available for purchase online
now -- -- or at the Gate: $15 adults, $6 for kids (4-11) and tickets are free for Active Mission Preservation Society Members. Discounted admission rates are available on event day for veterans and military with ID: $9 for adults and $8 for seniors.

About Mission San Juan Capistrano:

Known as the "Jewel of the Missions," Mission San Juan Capistrano is a historic landmark and museum that boasts of quality permanent exhibits featuring original artifacts as well as traveling and temporary exhibits on a wide variety of topics.

The site itself serves as a living outdoor museum with original buildings constructed by Native Americans in the 18th century including the Serra Chapel, Great Stone Church, and the original padres' quarters of the South Wing.

The Mission was founded on November 1, 1776 by Padre Junipero Serra as the seventh in the chain of the twenty-one California missions established by Spain, and is Orange County's only mission. Every year, over 50,000 students visit the Mission and engage in an inspirational learning experience via the Mission Matters programming, as part of their State required California history studies.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is owned by the Diocese of Orange and is supported by the Mission Preservation Foundation, which is comprised of business and community leaders committed to ensuring the long term preservation and viability of Orange County's only Mission. The Mission receives no funding from either the Church or the State of California and charges admission funds as a means of providing public access.