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Santa Barbara Festivals: Best Bets

Italian street painting festival, I Madonnari, livens up the grounds of Old MIssion Santa Barbara over Memorial Day Weekend (Photo: I Madonnari Festival)

The colorful Italian street painting festival, I Madonnari, comes to Old Mission Santa Barbara Memorial Day Weekend (Photo: I Madonnari Festival)

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost here. And, Santa Barbara knows how to Summer! The city nicknamed the “American Riviera” is home to an array of uniquely dazzling festivals, year-round.

Memorial Day weekend is considered the ‘unofficial’ start of beach season, so why not celebrate at the colorful I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival?  The grounds of Old Mission Santa Barbara shape shift into an Italian city, where street painters using chalk sketch massive images.

Asphalt is an artist's canvas at the I Madonnari street painting festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Asphalt is an artist’s canvas at the I Madonnari street painting festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Asphalt is their canvas as they create (or recreate) colorful works. This festival benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a non-profit which brings art into Santa Barbara area schools. Admission is free and the colorful drawings will stick around for a few days following the Memorial Day Weekend.

Colorful dancers shimmy down State Street at Santa Barbara's Summer Solstice Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Colorful dancers shimmy down State Street at Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

The Summer Solstice Celebration is one of Santa Barbara’s most popular events, drawing 100,000+ visitors. Many line State Street to be dazzled by the colorful dancers, drummers and pageantry of the Solstice Parade. No commercial entries allowed, so this parade is 100% home-grown Santa Barbara. Along with the parade on Saturday (noon, June 20, 2015), there’s a three-day weekend festival in Alameda Park, featuring live bands, artisans selling clothing and crafts as well as an array of food and drinks.

Watch: Sights & Sounds of Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade 2013!

July brings the French Festival, which ties in with France’s Bastille Day, and the Greek Festival, to Oak Park. Ooh La La! Or, should I say, Opah! You will delight in the native dishes and desserts being served.  I enjoy attending summer festivals in Oak Park because they are free, not too large, and it seems like there’s a different one every weekend. You can drop in a couple of hours or spend the day indulging in traditional foods or enjoying free entertainment.

Accordian clown at Solstice Parade (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Accordian clown at Solstice Parade (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

“Old Spanish Days of Santa Barbara,” aka “Fiesta,” takes over the downtown area on August 5-9, 2015.  This granddaddy of Santa Barbara events features horses with riders in traditional Spanish attire. A rodeo and other events mark the nearly week long celebration. Click this link for details on the rodeo and other events.

“Old Spanish Days Fiesta is about the heart of Santa Barbara’s residents and their passion for life,” said Cas Stimson, president of the 2015 Fiesta. This year’s theme is “Fiesta Romantica.” The first Fiesta was held in 1924 to pay tribute to the Spanish traditions  of Santa Barbara’s founding families.

The fun doesn’t end with summer.  The California Lemon Festival comes to Goleta in September; followed by the California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria and the Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival.

Kids of all ages enjoy Santa Barbara's unique mix of local events. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Kids of all ages enjoy Santa Barbara’s unique mix of local events. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

While we’re on the topic of Santa Barbara festivals, I have to mention the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). The main event takes place in Winter, just ahead of the Academy Awards. SBIFF has become an important stop on the road to Oscar, where nominees can schmooze with peers and try to drum up last minute Academy votes.  Building on its success, SBIFF has added a few mini-festivals called “Waves,” including a French Wave, featuring cinema of France, in July.

Click here to see a year-round list of Santa Barbara festivals and events.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Highway 101 into Santa Barbara (especially northbound) is usually busy in summer, and it will be jammed over the Solstice weekend. If you’re planning to attend the Solstice parade, arrive several hours early. Or, get a room and spend the night.

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Santa Barbara’s “Wild World of Orchids”

Some of the exotic orchids on display at the  Santa Barbara International Orchid Show  might even resemble a space alien! (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Some of the exotic orchids on display at the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show might even resemble a space alien! (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Orchid enthusiasts from around the world will be in Santa Barbara this weekend for the 71st Annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show.

“This is the biggest show in the United States,” said George Hatfield, president of this year’s show.

“This is an opportunity for the community to see orchids that they would have to travel around the world and pay thousands of dollars in airline tickets to see.”

“We have people from all continents except from Antarctica that are going to be displaying orchids.” Said Hatfield.

Many of the orchids being showcased feature details so intricate, it’s hard to believe they come from nature. They look more like precious works of art.

Hatfield explains exhibitors spend thousands of dollars on the orchids going into their displays.

Floral arrangement and photography competitions are a part of the annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Floral arrangement and photography competitions are a part of the annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

“Wild World of Orchids” is the theme of this year’s show, which also features orchid art, photography, floral arrangement and corsage competitions.

In addition to the floral displays, an entire exhibit hall is devoted to orchid sales. Many attendees take advantage of the chance to bring potted orchids and arrangements home.

 

Listen: Click to listen to my podcast with George Hatfield, president of the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show.

“60 vendors from around the world will bring a lot of exotic orchids that you don’t normally see at our local nurseries,” said Hatfield.

The International Cymbidium Conference takes place in tandem with the show, so there’s the chance to sign up for workshops and other events.

“Santa Barbara is kind of ground zero of cymbidium orchids, said Hatfield. “Cymbidiums started here in Santa Barbara and they’ve been a very big part of this show for many years.”

Exotic orchids on display at Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Exotic orchids will be on display this weekend at Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

The annual event brings in attendees by the busload to Earl Warren Showgrounds.  It’s a favorite stop for photographers, too.

“The orchid show is HUGE!” said photographer Ken Pfeiffer, who often attends to capture photos of the exotic orchids and extravagant botanical arrangements.

“It’s a visual feast of a seemingly unlimited variety of orchids from around the world. Some are exhibited individually as priceless solitary jewels, and some in massive artistic arrangements. The incredible colors and natural majesty are not to be missed!”

For the best photo-ops, Hatfield suggests arriving early, while the flowers are at their peak and the crowds are the thinnest.

The show runs from 9am-5pm Friday-Sunday (March 4-6, 2016) at Earl Warren Showgrounds. General admission is $14; seniors and students with ID are $12. Children 12 and under are free with an adult. For more information go to SBOrchidShow.com

 

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Winter Wine Classic Santa Barbara

Melinda Gandara pours a Lieff red for a group from the Coral Casino (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Melinda Gandara pours a Lieff red for a group of guests at the Winter Wine Classic (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Fine wine was flowing in Santa Barbara Saturday night at the California Wine Festival’s Fifth Annual Winter Wine Classic. Guests who gathered in the ballroom of the Fess Parker Resort were treated to tastes of reds and whites from up and down the state, as well as an array of tapas from local eateries.

Some of Santa Barbara’s best known brands were represented, including Brander, Alma Rosa, Zaca Mesa, Beckman and Melville. Several labels from the Santa Rita Hills were there, as well as some well-known Napa Valley labels, including Rombauer and Charles Krug.

An added treat was the several winemakers pouring their own wines. Sandra Newman of Cebada and Adam Henkel of Westerly Wines were there, along with Fred Brander’s son, Nick.

Lisa Osborn with Gretchen Lieff (Lieff Wines) and Melinda Gandara (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Lisa Osborn with Gretchen Lieff (Lieff Wines) and Melinda Gandara (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

My friend Gretchen Lieff was pouring her 2009 Lieff Cabernet Sauvignon from their Auberge Road Vineyard Rutherford.

“We are so excited to be part of the Winter Wine Classic and be able to help spread the growing enthusiasm and interest in California wines.” Said Lieff. “For the most part, the world of wine is a great deal of fun but it’s also a lot of hard work. It’s nice to meet the people who appreciate that effort.”

Gretchen, with her husband Robert, are growing grapes on their ranch at the San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara border. They will release their first vintage from this vineyard next year. But, some of their grapes are already turning up in Santa Barbara wines, including vintages from Margerum and Brander.

Jenny & Leo drove up from Los Angeles to taste wines they might want to serve at their wedding (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Jenny & Leo drove up from Los Angeles to taste wines they might want to serve at their wedding (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

I also ran into an old friend, Bill Candela, who was pouring Sunstone wines, including a red that scored 90+ in Tasting Panel Magazine the Blue Review.

Blush was one of the Santa Barbara restaurants offering tapas (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

Blush was one of the Santa Barbara restaurants offering tapas (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)

The guests I spoke with were big fans of this event. Some were local, one foursome came from Nipomo and at least one couple came from out of state.

Tom and Diana, who used to live in Ventura County, came down from Seattle. They are big fans of the California Wine Festival, with the summer event (July 15-16, 2016 this year) being Diana’s all-time favorite.

“We get the pass for the weekend, and attend the VIP event on Thursday night,” she said. “That’s where they are pouring the (most) expensive wines and delicious foods.”

Another couple, Jenny and Leo, came up from Los Angeles, to sample wines that they might want to serve at their wedding.

Blush, I’A Fish Market & Cafe, Rodney’s Grill, Paxti’s Pizza and Georgia’s Smokehouse were among the local eateries offering small bites.

An open air photo booth made it easy for revelers to ‘strike a pose’ and take home memories from this special event.

Winter Wine Classic Santa Barbara

Photos from the California Wine Festival's Winter Wine Classic at Fess Parker Resort Santa Barbara, February 20, 2016

[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_nello.jpg]110Phogographer Ken Pfeiffer said Nello wines were one of his favorites of the evening (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_characters.jpg]20Striking a pose at the open air photo booth (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_cebada.jpg]40Winemaker Sandra Newman of Cebada Wines (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
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(Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_westerly.jpg]40Winemaker Adam Henkel of Westerly Wines (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_press.jpg]60Lisa Osborn with Sue Foley and Lauren Bray of Ed Hat
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[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_lief-and-company.jpg]60Melinda Gandara, Gretchen Lieff, Lisa Osborn (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_gretchen-and-friend.jpg]70Gretchen Lieff of Lieff Wines with Kevin Speer, general manager of the Coral Casino (Ken Pfeiffer Photography)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_krug.jpg]40Pouring Charles Krug
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[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/winter-wine-classic-santa-barbara/thumbs/thumbs_son-and-friend.jpg]50Ashley with Nick Brander

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Santa Barbara Wine Industry Ages Well

Santa Barbara County adds another AVA with Los Olivos, bringing the total number of distinctive wine growing areas to six. (Photo Traffic411)

Santa Barbara County adds another AVA with Los Olivos, bringing the total number of distinctive wine growing areas to six. (Photo Traffic411)

We’re barely into 2016, and it’s already been a good year for Santa Barbara wine industry.

In January, the federal government awarded Los Olivos its own AVA (American Viticultural Area). The designation recognizes a wine-grape growing region as being distinct from surrounding areas in climate, soil and geographical features.

Tune-in to my podcast with Fred Brander of Brander Vineyards and Morgen McLaughlin of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association

“I think each place in the Santa Ynez Valley has its own right area for different varietals,” said winemaker Fred Brander. The owner of Brander Vineyards led the decade-long effort to achieve the AVA designation for Los Olivos.

“Bordeau varieties mainly do well (in Los Olivos), certainly Sauvignon  Blanc…. the reds have been longer to perfect, namely Cabernet Sauvignon…. it’s a matter of applying some really careful viticulture.” Brander, who has a background in chemistry, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

Fred Brander, owner of Brander Vineyards, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

Fred Brander, owner of Brander Vineyards, was one of the first winemakers to plant grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago.

“When Cabernet is grown right, it can make some great wine,” added Brander. “Of course it has to be grown in Los Olivos. You can’t probably make the best Cabernet in Santa Rita.”

Brander explained the new Los Olivos AVA covers “the area between Happy Canyon and Ballard Canyon with the Santa Ynez River being the southern boundary, and for the northern boundary we picked the 1000 foot elevation.”

“It’s very exciting to have a new AVA, because it provides more clarity and more spotlight on our unique growing region,” said Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of Santa Barbara County Vintners Association. “Santa Barbara is one of the most unique growing regions in the world. Having a new AVA helps us to better tell the story.”

McLaughlin explains that Santa Barbara County is different than other California wine countries. “Most regions are more similar, in that they have one or two signature wine grape varieties. We are blessed in Santa Barbara in that we have more than 50 varieties that do so well.”

Anyone who has spent much time in Santa Barbara County has probably noticed that wines have become big business, and a tourist magnet. A new economic impact report revealed that the wine industry adds more than $1 billion annually to the Santa Barbara County economy.  McLaughlin says even she was surprised by the eye-popping number.

“The report shows that our wine and grape industry provides…. $1.7 billion annually to economic vitality to the county……  That’s not only from wine making, but it’s also from grape growing, tourism, the restaurant business, those who sell and pour Santa Barbara County wines, retailers, tour companies. There’s a lot of different small businesses that benefit from the wine industry in the county.”

“Santa Barbara remains the most exciting wine country area in all of California,” said Brander.

Los Olivos becomes the sixth AVA for Santa Barbara County, distinguishing itself from Santa Ynez Valley, Happy Canyon, Ballard Canyon, Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley wine growing areas.

Interested in staying strong and healthy?  Subscribe to my new podcast Lisa.FM Thrive! on iTunes, Blubrry, Stitcher, Libsyn, or listen on Tune-In and AromaThrive.com. Thanks in advance for sharing this podcast with your friends, rating the podcast and posting reviews!

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Santa Barbara Bird Watching

Great Egrets (pictured) and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in Santa Barbara-area waterways. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Great Egrets (pictured) and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in Santa Barbara-area waterways. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

A group of Santa Barbara bird enthusiasts had their eyes to the skies (and seas) over New Year’s weekend.  Beginning at 12:01 AM on January 2nd, they spent 24 hours tallying up the many varieties of birds spotted in the area as part of the 116th Audubon Society Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count. In recent years, Santa Barbara has ranked high in both diversity of species as well as the total number of birds. And, numbers from this year’s CBC indicate that the “American Riviera” is still a popular stop for feathered fliers.

Final numbers will continue to be crunched for the next few weeks. But, preliminary results show counters spotted 210 different species in the Santa Barbara CBC circle, which is 15 miles in diameter, centered at the intersection of Highway 154 and Cathedral Oaks Road.

Organizers are confident this number should be enough to put Santa Barbara in second place, behind San Diego (where 220 species were counted).

“Our total of 210 will most likely go to 211, but that will not be confirmed until after this weekend,” said Rebecca Coulter, with the Santa Barbara CBC circle (there were separate counting circles in Carpinteria, Cachuma, Lompoc and other parts of the county). “Either way, that puts us in second place statewide, behind San Diego’s amazing total of 220.”

“But remember, we are counting more than species. We are counting all the individual birds observed by the counters during that 24 hour period,” added Coulter. “The big picture is that it’s a census that gives us information about relative abundance or scarcity, in addition to species diversity. And because it’s the longest running citizen science project out there, there’s a lot of data to compare it to.”

Red tailed hawks can be spotted in trees, on poles or soaring over Santa Barbara (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Red tailed hawks can be spotted in trees, on poles or soaring over Santa Barbara (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

This year’s highlights include the Tufted Duck, returning for a third winter, on a private reservoir in north Goleta. And, a bald eagle was spotted soaring over South La Cumbre Peak. Organizers say notable misses include the Ross’s Goose, Snow Goose and Yellow-Billed Magpie.

“It should be noted that we were second in the state this year but 5th in the country. The first 3 spots were all Texas. Last year we were 2nd in the country, ahead of San Diego and behind only Mad Marsh/Matagorda Texas, which had 234 species last year to our 214 and had 239 this year,” added an EdHat reader who posted this comment on my story at the Santa Barbara community news website.

Bird Watching in Santa Barbara

It’s easy to spot a variety of different bird species while walking in Santa Barbara. Long-legged Great blue Heron and Snowy Egrets are a common sight in waterways from the Coal Oil Point Reserve next to UC Santa Barbara to Carpinteria’s Salt Marsh Reserve.  I love seeing the array of shorebird species walking on the beach. And, it’s not unusual to spot rare hawks or other raptors from hiking trails, or perched on a telephone line.

Last weekend, photographer Ken Pfeiffer and I walked from the now-defunct Ocean Meadows Golf Course in Goleta to the Coal Oil Point Reserve. Here are some of the bird species we spotted along the way.

Other good places for bird watching in Santa Barbara include the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. Click here to find more Santa Barbara birding hot spots.

Click here for a more comprehensive guide to Santa Barbara bird watching.

Check out ebird for more details on Santa Barbara’s Christmas Bird Count. And, for a guide (including photos) to some local urban birds, check out this Birds of Santa Barbara Guide for Kids and Grown Ups. 

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2015 Holiday Boat Parade Guide

The Getty Yacht docks at Burton Chace Park, giving guests a front row spot to see the Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The Getty Yacht docks at Burton Chace Park, giving guests a front row spot to see the Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

December is barely here, yet boaters in Santa Barbara and up and down the coast are already decking their bows with colorful Christmas lights! Attending a boat parade is a fun (and often free) way to celebrate the holidays in true California style.

Santa Barbara’s Parade of Lights takes place on Sunday, December 6th at 5:30 PM. Claim your spot somewhere between the City Pier and Stearn’s Wharf to see the colorful watercraft of all sizes glide along the water. Be sure to stay til the end for the fireworks show. And, get there early and head to the City Pier (near the Maritime Museum) to see revelers playing in tons of snow and enjoying other kid-friendly activities.

Just up the coast, Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo is holding its Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, December 5th at 6:30pm.

The Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade is on Saturday, December 12th. I’ll be your host at Burton Chace Park, offering colorful commentary at the passing boats. It’s always fun and, if there’s a lull in the parade, we’ll recruit some kids to lead us in a round of Christmas Carols.

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'Santa's Helpers' assist boat parade announcers Lisa & Mickey Lazslo with holiday carol singalongs at Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey.

‘Santa’s Helpers’ assist boat parade announcers Lisa & Mickey Lazslo with holiday carol singalongs at Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey.

Colorful fireworks will light up the Marina del Rey harbor at 5:55 PM, and the parade starts at 6 PM. The theme this year is “Adventures on the Sea,” and “Brady Bunch” mom, Florence Henderson, will serve as grand marshal.  You should find free parking in the L.A. County lots (Burton Chace Park is located at the end of Mindanao in Marina del Rey).

Redondo Beach and the community of Naples are also holding their parades on December 12th. Redondo Beach’s parade isn’t as elaborate as Marina del Rey’s, but it will still be plenty of fun. If you are in the South Bay, Click here to check out some of the prime viewing spots. The Naples Holiday Boat Parade in Long Beach starts at 7pm, but nearby streets close at 5pm, so plan to arrive early.

Also Read: Santa Barbara’s “Merry” Season

Dana Point‘s parade expands to two weekends this year, Fri/Sat Dec 11, 12, 18 & 19th. And, the Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights and fireworks show takes place December 18-19th. Ventura Harbor Village is ground zero for all the Santa Fun.

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The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is the grand daddy of Southern California boat parades, running for five nights, December 16-20th. Calling itself ‘the nation’s longest running lighted boat parade,’ some boaters spend $50,000 decorating their yachts and watercraft, vying for bragging rights and some wonderful prizes.  This parade has been going on for more than 100 years and the harbor is expected to be wall-to-wall boats again this year. I don’t know how the captains manage to keep from bumping into each other!

If you plan ahead, you might still be able to get a reservation at a waterside restaurant with a view. But, it can be just as much fun to watch the parade outdoors, it’s free and what a fun family Christmas activity!

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Dress warmly – it might feel cooler than the temperature outside sitting waterside to view the parade.

Enjoy this photo gallery of the 2013 Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade, photos by Ken Pfeiffer Photography

Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade 2013

It's a holiday tradition that I've had the honor of hosting for more than a decade, the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade. For the first time, my co-host Mickey Czegledy and I broadcast from Fisherman's Village. Thanks to Ken Pfeiffer for sharing these beautiful photos.

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Colorful boats sparkle in the harbor next to Fisherman's Village, all decked out for the 51st Annual Holiday Boat Parade. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Lisa Osborne & Mickey Czegledy announcing the boats in the 51st Annual Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade. This is the first year we were at Fisherman's Village. Normally we announce the parade from Burton Chace Park. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The Killer Shrimp (restaurant) boat (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Santa Monica Wind Jammers Yacht Club is usually a big winner at the parade. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Our friend Donna Leeds joins me and Mickey at the VIP party at Del Rey Yacht Club. It was fun to see this year's grand marshals, L.A. Lakers president Jeannie Buss and NBA Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson.
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That's a Wrap!! Thanks for the property managers at Fisherman's Village for hosting us while we announced the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade. (l-r Debbie Talbot with LA County Beaches & Harbors, Lisa Osborne, Mickey Czegledy, former MDR Holiday Boat Parade president Diane Barretti (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

 

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Santa Barbara’s “Merry” Season

Strolling through festively-decorated shops at La Arcada on State Street might make you forget you're in Southern California (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Strolling through festively-decorated shops at La Arcada on State Street might make you forget you’re in Southern California (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

The 2015 holiday season is upon us and Santa Barbara is wasting no time getting into the festive Spirit.

Thousands of spectators are expected to line State Street on Friday, December 4th, for the 63rd Annual Downtown Holiday Parade. Starting at 6:30pm with a spectacular tree lighting, the parade will move down State Street from Sola to Cota streets.  Kids will have a chance to meet with Santa ahead of the event. Mr. Claus will be at center court of the Paseo Nuevo mall from 4pm-5:30pm.

On Sunday, December 6th, the Parade of Lights boat parade will brighten up the water between the City Pier and Stearn’s Wharf. The parade starts at 5:30pm and will be followed by a fireworks show. But, plan to head to the City Pier (near the Maritime Museum) early to where there will be tons of snow to play in and other kid-friendly activities.  (Check back soon to Traffic411 for my post on the best So Cal holiday boat parades).

Some Santa Barbara neighborhoods go all out Decking the Halls and homes! (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Some Santa Barbara neighborhoods go all out Decking the Halls and homes! (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Some neighborhoods go overboard on the Christmas lights and decorations. A ‘Jump on the School Bus’ or Trolley tour (the Santa Barbara Trolley of Lights website says they are sold out?). Tours run December 10-23 and will take you to all of the best locations.

Or, you can drive yourself, but be aware that the streets get packed with cars, especially on the weekends. You’ll find some of the best decorations along Portesuello Ave (between Las Positas and Modoc) and the lower east side (east of Milpas between Cota and the Hwy. 101).

The Nutcracker Ballet is a Santa Barbara tradition. The program, with a live, full symphony orchestra, takes place at the Arlington Theater the second weekend in December (this year it’s 12/12-13/2015).

Also Read: 2015 Holiday Boat Parade Guide

If you’re into Yuletide classics as well as  “The Great American Songbook,” check out Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Christmas at the Granada Theater, December 8th and 9th.  This lively show promises to channel the best of Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey back in the days when the Rat Pack ruled the Vegas Strip.

For some family fun, “Fiesta de Navidad” at Casa Dolores  honors the beauty and traditions of Mexico with folk art scenes of the nativity, a Mexican chocolate display and more. Guests are encouraged to bring a gift or donation of arts supplies for local children’s groups. It’s on Friday, December 18th from 4-6pm.

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You won’t want to miss the nativity scene at Old Mission Santa Barbara, complete with life-size statues and live animals.

Do you have a favorite Santa Barbara holiday tradition or place to visit? Please share with me (email: Traffic411-at-aol-dot-com).

Portion's of the city's lower east side go all out with Christmas lights and decorations (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Portion’s of the city’s lower east side go all out with Christmas lights and decorations (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Santa Barbara holiday lights (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Santa Barbara holiday lights (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

A trolley tour will ensure you see many of the best Christmas lights displays in Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

A trolley tour will ensure you see many of the best Christmas lights displays in Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

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Stuck on Highway 166

A rainbow appears over the Cuyama Valley as stranded travelers sit for hours in their car waiting for Highway 166 to be cleared of debris after the roadway flooded. (Photo: Traffic411)

A rainbow appears over the Cuyama Valley as stranded travelers sit for hours in their car waiting for Highway 166 to be cleared of debris after the roadway flooded. (Photo: Traffic411)

When I set out for Kern County on Friday morning I was looking forward to taking the 166 from Santa Maria to Taft. My original plan to take the 33 up and over Ojai and into Maricopa was scratched due to the mudslides caused by flash flooding a day earlier. The downpour also triggered mudslides that closed Interstate 5 overnight, the main artery linking Los Angeles to the Central Valley.

From Santa Barbara, taking the 166 instead of the 33 added an hour to the drive, but I headed out before sunrise and made it to Taft in three hours. Coming home was a different story. A flash flood warning was issued for the 166 due to thunderstorms. But, since I5 was just reopening with escorts, I took my chances on the 166.

I didn’t get very far before receiving a text alert from KEYT News saying that a ‘flash flood was reported in Cuyama Valley… with many cars stuck in the mud.” I had planned to stop for dinner at the Cuyama Buckhorn, a newly-reopened vintage roadside saloon/restaurant/motel. So, I pulled in to the restaurant and asked if anyone knew the location of the mudslides.  The bartender said he didn’t but, that firetrucks with sirens blaring had zoomed by about five minutes ago. He said that meant that the emergency workers may soon be shutting down the road.

Also Read: Taft’s Oildorado Days

I skipped my plans for dinner & a beer and hopped back in my car to try to get through on the single lane road before it became impassable. But, I was too late – ten minutes up the road I hit stopped traffic. And, the line of cars and drivers were stranded there for two hours. CHP SUVs and an ambulance or two roared by, what looked like a Sheriff’s helicopter and an airplane (possibly KEYT News getting aerial footage?) but drivers down below were stuck not knowing what was happening.

KNX NewsRadio out of Los Angeles came in sketchy on my radio and I could hear traffic reporter (and my friend) Denise Fondo mentioning the trouble on the 166, but she had the location wrong (the CHP must have shut down the 166 back at the 33 because the road was impassable). I tried for an hour to call the KNX Traffic Line with no luck since my phone had no signal. Then I noticed in my rear view mirror that the driver behind me was talking on his phone. He loaned it to me to call the radio station to report our traffic tie up.

Big kudos to Fondo for taking the time to look into the reason for our standstill – even though the 166 is way outside of the Los Angeles metro area (still, you have lots of KNX listeners in Santa Barbara County, KNX!). Fondo was busy enough reporting on an extra busy Friday afternoon commute – with the newly-opened I5, and an hours-long closure of the 101 in both directions through Studio City because of a suicidal man threatening to jump. So, thank you Denise!

As it turned out, Thankfully, it turned out, no cars were stuck in the mud, which covered the roadway and what appeared to be a bridge near Spanish Ranch. After sitting still for two hours, cars started moving through the muddy area. By this time it was dark, and what a beautiful night in Cuyama. Clear skies, a bright crescent shaped moon and stars.

Highway 101 was jammed with big rigs at 10PM on Friday night, as truckers found an alternate route to the I5 closure. (Photo: Traffic411)

Highway 101 was jammed with big rigs at 10PM on Friday night, as truckers found an alternate route to the I5 closure. (Photo: Traffic411)

An hour later, there was another slowdown merging onto Hwy 101 in Santa Maria. But the real gridlock came getting into the city of Santa Barbara.  The 101 was wall to wall big rigs. It’s amazing what the closure of one major freeway (Interstate 5) can do.  My expected three hour drive home from Kern County turned into a six hour ordeal! Boy, was I happy to (finally) get home to Santa Barbara.

Let’s hope that with the I5 reopened, the truckers will be heading for the Grapevine and leaving the 101 to the cars.

Keep in mind, the CHP & Caltrans says it could be days before the 58 (another popular route for truckers) is cleared of debris and reopens. According to Caltrans QuickMap, Hwy 33 is open at the Wheeler Gorge Campground (as of Saturday morning).

This ordeal has me making sure I have some warm clothes, sturdy shoes, extra water and some kind fo food (nuts, power bars) in the trunk, to be prepared for an emergency.

 

NOTE: There could be more flooding on Hwy 166 Saturday – A flash flood watch is in effect through tonight for  the Cuyama Valley as well as the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo & Ventura County mountain areas.

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La Purisima Mission

Take a self-guided tour at La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc. You can also explore miles of hiking trails at this historic spot on California's Central Coast (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

Take a self-guided tour at La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc. You can also explore miles of hiking trails at this historic spot on California’s Central Coast (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

One of several confession boxes at La Purisima Mission (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

One of several confession boxes at La Purisima Mission (photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

If the recent Canonization of Father Junipero Serra has piqued your interest in California history, you might want to visit some of the Golden State’s historic missions. Several of these religious outposts are located along the Central Coast.

Old Mission Santa Barbara is known as “Queen of the Missions” – perhaps rightly so because of its graceful beauty as well as being located in the rustic Mission Canyon area of Santa Barbara. Some lesser-known missions are also worth a visit, including La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc.

An intricate shrine inside the chapel of of La Purisima Mission in Lompoc (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

An intricate shrine inside the chapel of of La Purisima Mission in Lompoc (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).

La Purisima Mission is reportedly the most extensively renovated California Mission. The self-guided tour of the spacious grounds makes for a very relaxing visit.

You can stroll through the arches next to the mission bells to the old burial ground. Then, take the dirt pathway along the length of the single-story adobe structure, peeking inside rooms from the church to the weaver’s quarters, soldiers room and kitchens.

Also Read/Listen: Central Coast Tribal Members Discuss Their Views on St. Serra (my KCBX Radio story)

The rooms have been remarkably renovated and include details such as kitchen tables set for a meal, and a card game in progress (love the vintage playing cards!).

There's a card game in progress (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

There’s a card game in progress (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

La Purisima Mission is on State Park grounds, offering many miles of hiking trails along grounds with lots of old oak trees. The summer day I was there seemed much cooler than Santa Barbara temperatures, which have been hotter than average this year.

Admission to La Purisima Mission is free. Parking is $5. You can see the mission in anywhere from one hour – to an entire half of day, longer if you want to explore the hiking trails.

La Purisima Mission State Park

If the recent Canonization of Father Junipero Serra has piqued your interest in California history, you might want to visit some of the Golden State's historic missions. Here are some beautiful shots of La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc, CA.

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Traffic411 Insiders Tip: Wine lovers might want to hop over to “The Wine Ghetto,” Lompoc’s growing wine district offers an array of tasting rooms. Non-drinkers might enjoy the Surf-Lompoc Amtrak Station, located along a pristine stretch of Surf Beach (although the beach is closed parts of the year when Snowy Plover are nesting).

Distance from LAX: 150 miles (Distance from Old Mission Santa Barbara: 54 miles)

You can also explore these Central Coast Missions:

Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura)

Old Mission Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara)

Old Mission Santa Ines (Solvang)

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (San Luis Obispo)

Mission San Miguel (San Luis Obispo County)

Mission San Antonio de Padua (Jolon, Monterey County)

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission (Carmel, Monterey County).
Carmel Mission was the first headquarters of the California Mission System and is the final resting place for Father J. Serra

Old Mission San Juan Bautista (San Juan Bautista, near Salinas)

 

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Old Spanish Days Fiesta

Dancing at Santa Barbara's Old  Spanish Days Fiesta (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Dancing at Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Santa Barbarans are spending the week celebrating their beautiful city’s heritage, and you’re invited to attend many of the free events taking place around town.

Old Spanish Days Fiesta runs from August 5-9, 2015. The city comes alive with colorful Spanish dancers, dancing horses, a rodeo, two parades, live music on multiple stages and plenty of pageantry, food and drink.

What could be more breathtaking than a group of Spanish dancers in colorful gowns twirling on stage with Old Mission Santa Barbara or the County Courthouse as their backdrop? While you’re at the Courthouse, take a free tour. The clock tower (offering one of the best city views) recently reopened. Click here for a calendar of Fiesta events.

In this Lisa.FM/Traffic411 podcast, Old Spanish Days historian Erin Graffy explains the history behind this 90+ year city tradition. Her stories of the parade and rodeo will make you want to attend.

Santa Barbara historians Erin Graffy & her brother Neal Graffy offer insider tips for getting the most out of Old Spanish Days Fiesta. Ole! (Photo courtesy of Neal Graffy)

Santa Barbara historians Erin Graffy & her brother Neal Graffy offer insider tips for getting the most out of Old Spanish Days Fiesta. Ole! (Photo courtesy of Neal Graffy)

Plus, Erin’s brother, Santa Barbara historian Neal Graffy will share the history behind Fiesta traditions, such as the big rodeo and confetti eggs.  They’ll also tell you where to find the most authentic Spanish/Mexican food during Fiesta.

Dancers of all ages perform during Old Spanish Days Fiesta (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Dancers of all ages perform during Old Spanish Days Fiesta (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

On Friday, Neal Graffy will provide color commentary during the Historical Parade  (El Desfile Histórico).  If you can’t make it to Santa Barbara to see the parade in person, you can tune-in online. KEYT-3 News will stream the parade live at KEYT.com 

KEYT senior reporter John Palmentari (left) with historian Neal Graffy at Fiesta 2014 (photo courtesy of Neal Graffy)

KEYT senior reporter John Palmentari (left) with historian Neal Graffy at Fiesta 2014 (photo courtesy of Neal Graffy)

¡Viva La Fiesta!

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Church) Mercado serves the most authentic Mexican food during Old Spanish Days Fiesta.

Distance from LAX: 95 miles

 

 

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