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Gaviota Side Trip: Nojoqui Falls Park

The Farm-Stead is a fun side trip off Highway 101 between Santa Barbara & Solvang (photo Traffic411)

The Farm-Stead is a fun side trip off Highway 101 between Santa Barbara & Solvang (photo Traffic411)

Here’s a fun little side trip the next time you drive Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County between the Gaviota Coast and Solvang:  Nojoqui Falls Park & The Farm-Stead.

The Farm-Stead is a cute little store that sells fresh organic produce, and offers the opportunity to pick your own.

Families were gathering raspberries and strawberries in their roadside garden during my recent Sunday visit. I bought some heirloom cantaloupes which were sweet and delicious!  There are goats, mules and pigs in a pen out back, with a bucket of veggies that customers can feed the animals. The Farm-Stead is located along Old Coast Highway Road in Gaviota, although the ocean is nowhere in sight.

The Farm-Stead has goats and pigs out back (photo Traffic411)

The Farm-Stead has goats and pigs out back (photo Traffic411)

Nojoqui Falls Park (pronounced no-HO-wee) is just up the road from The Farm-Stead. Shaded by rustic oaks dripping with moss. There are picnic tables for day visits, so pack a lunch or pick up fresh snacks at The Farm-Stead. It’s typically an easy hike to Nojoqui Falls (although chances are you won’t see much water because of the drought), but the trail was closed on the day I visited (July 2016) because of a mudslide.

The trail to Nojoqui Falls is closed because of a mudslide (photo Traffic411)

The trail to Nojoqui Falls is closed because of a mudslide (photo Traffic411)

These spots are located above the Gaviota tunnel off Highway 101, heading north you’ll make a right just off the highway. You’ll come to the Farm-Stead first, and then make a left on Alisol (easy signage) to get to Nojoqui Park.  This route is also a scenic short cut into Solvang.

Nojoqui Falls sign & street sign Old Coast Highway & Alisal (Photo Traffic411)

Nojoqui Falls sign & street sign Old Coast Highway & Alisal (Photo Traffic411)

Traffic411 Insider Tip: There’s a free electric vehicle (EV) charging station outside the Farm-Stead. Pick some berries while you’re charging your EV battery!

Distance from LAX: 139 miles

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Visit Santa Barbara: Refugio State Beach reopens

Refugio State Beach, damaged by an oil spill, is known for its beautiful clear waters and diverse sea life. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Refugio State Beach, damaged by an oil spill, is known for its beautiful clear waters and diverse sea life. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The last remaining State Beach closed since a pipeline ruptured in May, sending 100,000+ gallons of oil gushing onto the shore and into the ocean, is now open.  While campers and beach goers are allowed to return, news of the spill has caused a lot of would-be visitors to Santa Barbara to change their travel plans.

Refugio State Beach is located along the Gaviota Coast, a pristine stretch of coastline known for its clean waters and diverse sea life. The spill site is several miles west (north) of the city of Santa Barbara. Still, as soon as news of the spill splashed across newspaper & website headlines, the city’s billion-dollar a year tourism industry took a hit.

Tajiguas Beach, looking toward Refugio State Beach, pre-spill.  Located along the Gaviota Coast, near Santa Barbara, it's known as the "Galapagos of the North." (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Tajiguas Beach, looking toward Refugio State Beach, pre-spill. Located along the Gaviota Coast, near Santa Barbara, it’s known as the “Galapagos of the North.” (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

It’s not just the sea sport industries such as kayak and stand up paddle board operators who have noticed a drop off in customers. One winemaker with a tasting room downtown said business remained down by 50% two months after the spill.

Also read:  Gaviota Coast, Santa Barbara

Every year, Santa Barbara attracts visitors from around the world. Tourism is the city’s biggest industry. So, let’s let everyone know that Santa Barbara is as beautiful as ever – there’s no need to cancel or change plans to visit.

Tajiguas Beach was among the beaches along the Gaviota Coast impacted by a 100,000+ gallon oil spill in May 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Tajiguas Beach was among the beaches along the Gaviota Coast impacted by a 100,000+ gallon oil spill in May 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

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SB Solstice Floats Before & After

Santa Barbara's Community Arts Workshop, ground zero of Solstice float creation (Photo Traffic411)

Santa Barbara’s Community Arts Workshop, ground zero of Solstice float creation (Photo Traffic411)

It was so much fun visiting the Community Arts Workshop (the “CAW”) to watch Santa Barbara Solstice Parade artists and float builders at work.  What a difference a few days made as far as the process of their creations.  I know at least one artist stayed up all night in order to have his float ready for Saturday.

Here are a few of the 2015 entries – in process and then ‘ready for their close ups’ — in Santa Barbara’s 2015 Summer Solstice Parade.

“The Cloud”

Santa Barbara native John Sinclair has been participating in Solstice for years. Now living on the east coast, he was able to come back to town to create his float “The Cloud.”

John Sinclair's "The Cloud" Solstice entry three days before the parade (Photo Traffic411)

John Sinclair’s “The Cloud” Solstice entry three days before the parade (Photo Traffic411)

“We’re not necessarily trying to be a cloud in the sky, but ‘the Cloud…’  Science fiction is the theme this year, so I thought what is more science fiction than the idea that someday we will all just be part of the Cloud, not human entities anymore.”

'Cloudies' prepping ahead of the Solstice Parade. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

‘Cloudies’ prepping ahead of the Solstice Parade. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Artist John Sinclair evangelizing to parade watchers that one day we would all be 'in the cloud.' (Photo Traffic411)

Artist John Sinclair evangelizing to parade watchers that one day we would all be ‘in the cloud.’ (Photo Traffic411)

John invited my friend Ken Pfeiffer and me to be in the parade, along with his family including his mom, Sarah. His grandmother, Sally Graham, waved to parade watchers from the top of the Cloud float.

"The Cloud" makes its way down State Street in the 2015 Santa Barbara Solstice Parade. That's me in the white lab coat arm raised (Photo Robert Bernstein)

“The Cloud” makes its way down State Street in the 2015 Santa Barbara Solstice Parade. That’s me in the white lab coat arm raised (Photo Robert Bernstein)

“Time Travel Trike”

Artist Geoffrey Barber gave a nod to Sci Fi author H.G. Wells with his time machine creation.

Artist Geoffrey Barber on his "Time Trike" SB Solstice Parade 2015 (Photo by Robert Bernstein)

Artist Geoffrey Barber on his “Time Trike” SB Solstice Parade 2015 (Photo by Robert Bernstein)

“It’s actually a Time Trike,” he said. Barber says some of his favorite parts of Solstice are the parties and the ‘push back.’ “The push back is at the end of the parade when we’re getting all the floats back…because it means you’ve done your job!”

This is the "Time Machine Trike" in progress (Photo Traffic411)

This is the “Time Machine Trike” in progress (Photo Traffic411)

Solstice artist Geoffrey Barber on his 'Time Machine Trike' meets up with a scary looking friend along the parade route (Photo by Robert Bernstein)

Solstice artist Geoffrey Barber on his ‘Time Machine Trike’ meets up with a scary looking friend along the parade route (Photo by Robert Bernstein)

 

Read more:  Building Santa Barbara’s Solstice Parade

“Solar Flying Saucer”

Aliens peek out of the window of their foil-wrapped saucer, as dancers of all ages move along State Street.

aliens peek out a window of their space craftr

“Sci Fi” is the theme for this year’s Santa Barbara Solstice Parade (photo Lisa Osborn)

Flying saucer dancers warming up for Solstice Parade (Photo Traffic411)

Flying saucer dancers warming up for Solstice Parade (Photo Traffic411)

 

Thanks to photographer Robert Bernstein for sharing his photos. You can see more of his SB Solstice Parade photos here.

SB photographer Robert Bernstein (right) with friends at the 2015 Solstice Parade. (Photo Robert Bernstein)

SB photographer Robert Bernstein (right) with friends at the 2015 Solstice Parade. (Photo Robert Bernstein)

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Sound like a Santa Barbara Local

Just about any newcomer to California will tell you that it’s not always easy pronouncing the names of some of our streets and cities. Many of the names are inspired by early Spanish or Mexican settlers, which probably sound quite foreign to out of state visitors and newly-relocated transplants.

I’ve lived in the Golden State all of my life and, as a former traffic reporter, it was my job to know how to pronounce the names of every freeway ramp in Southern California. But, when I first arrived in Santa Barbara there were streets I wasn’t sure about.

Santa Barbara historian Neal Graffy, author of “Street Names of Santa Barbara,” says the town council wanted to honor Santa Barbara’s earliest settlers and founding families by naming city streets after them. From Anapamu to Quinientos – Graffy offers this brief audio primer on how to sound like a local.

Graffy told me the hardest names in downtown Santa Barbara to pronounce are Micheltorena and Quinientos. For me, Anapamu and Arrellaga looked just as tricky. Have you come across any streets that left you scratching your head?

When 100,000+ gallons of crude oil spilled off the Gaviota coast in May of 2015, one of my Los Angeles traffic reporter friends asked me how to say “Refugio” like a local. I told her it was pronounced “Ruh-foo-GEE-oh” (with a hard G, like ‘get’). Later,  I learned the “G” was spoken as an ‘F’ in the original Spanish pronunciation, making it “Ruh-foo-FEE-oh.”  For details on the proper Refugio pronunciation, check out this EdHat discussion.

While you’re figuring out the street names – you’ll want to become acquainted with three street names that sound similar – but lead to different places: Cabrillo, Carrillo and Castillo! 🙂 Happy Pronouncing!

streetnamesofsb_cropYou can read about the stories behind the street names of Santa Barbara in Graffy’s book “Street Names of Santa Barbara.” 

 

 

 

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Building Santa Barbara’s Solstice Parade

Highway 101 through Santa Barbara will be busy this weekend, as tens of thousands of people stream into town for the annual Summer Solstice Celebration. The festival in Alameda Park begins Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday, but the biggest draw of the weekend will be the Solstice Parade, which begins on State Street on Saturday at noon.

aliens peek out a window of their space craftr

“Sci Fi” is the theme for this year’s Santa Barbara Solstice Parade (photo Lisa Osborn)

This year’s theme is “Sci Fi” so there will no doubt be plenty of ‘close encounters’ with all things Alien. No commercial or motorized floats are allowed. This parade uses 100% human power, so there will be plenty of pure creativity on display. Artists, float builders and volunteers have been working for weeks on their Solstice creations, making sure they’ll be ready for their ‘close up’ this weekend.

I got a sneak peek of the entries being built at Santa Barbara’s new Community Arts Workshop. While the Solstice crew has worked here before, thanks to generous community donations, “The CAW” is now the permanent home for Solstice float building.  The Solstice Parade’s artistic director, Riccardo Morrison, explains what is so great about having a permanent home base at The CAW.

Artist in residence Geoffrey Barber has participated in plenty of Solstice Parades. This year he’s creating a time machine.  Barber tells me what he likes best about Solstice, and how he’s had to improvise in past years, enlisting parade spectators to help power his float along the parade route. Click on the SoundCloud below to listen to Geoffrey’s entertaining stories!

Artist Geoffrey Barber (left) gets help from master builder to finish off his time machine in time for Solstice (Photo Lisa Osborn)

Artist Geoffrey Barber (left) gets help from a master builder to finish off his time machine in time for Solstice (Photo Lisa Osborn)

Santa Barbara teenager Will Hahn tells me he’s been participating in the Solstice Parade for most of his life. His father brought him here for the first time when he was three years old. Will describes what he’s building this year, and offers a tip for getting the most out of your Solstice experience.

Solstice web_cloud 1Artist in residence John Sinclair has been participating in Solstice since he was a student in Santa Barbara. Now living on the east coast, Sinclair returned to town to build his creation, “The Cloud.” And, this isn’t just a cloud in the sky, “it’s THE Cloud, as in the one where all of your personal information is stored.”

Sinclair explains, “Science fiction this year is the theme, and so, I thought, what is more science fiction than we’ll all day just be part of the cloud and not human entities anymore?” Click the Soundcloud to hear John explain how he crafted his Cloud.

To my delight, Sinclair invited me to be in the parade as part of the cloud!  I’m very excited so, if you are at the Solstice Parade, look for me, in the cloud!

The parade starts at noon on Saturday, June 20th, at Cota & State Street. A Solstice Celebration in Alameda Park runs from Friday Afternoon through Sunday, for details go to SolsticeParade.com

Traffic411 Insider Tip: If you want to see the parade, plan to arrive at least two hours early. Park near Alameda Park so you can enjoy the festival after the parade.

Distance from LAX: 97 Miles

Volunteers show off their creativity in between Solstice float building (Photo Traffic411)

Volunteers show off their creativity in between Solstice float building (Photo Traffic411)

solstice sun_web_Traffic411

Solstice web _workers sunSolstice web_costume studio

Find out more about Santa Barbara’s CAW in this video

Solstice web_CAW sign

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Giant Sharks Swarm SB Museum of Natural History

Visitors to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History can get an up-close look at the largest sharks that ever lived. "Megalodon" is on exhibit through August (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Visitors to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History can get an up-close look at the largest sharks that ever lived. “Megalodon” is on exhibit through August 30, 2015. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a cool place to visit any time of year.  Set in the city’s rustic Mission Canyon area, just around the corner from Old Mission Santa Barbara, it’s a lovely, peaceful place to spend the day.

And, if you are an ocean lover or fan of creatures that roam the sea, you’ll want to visit the museum this summer to explore “Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived.” This exhibit runs through August 30, 2015.

While you’re there, be sure to check out some of my favorite exhibits at the museum, including the Chumash Indian hall & planetarium. Click to listen to the podcast below for my insider tips on what to see at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum.

The museum hosts special events year-round, including the Santa Barbara Wine Festival. This is one of my favorite area wine festivals because so many of the best Santa Barbara area vintners are pouring. But, pace yourself, a LOT of wine is flowing, it’s set in a relatively small area, and it may be a sunny, warm day. This year it’s coming up on Saturday, June 27 (2015).

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Finally, butterfly lovers – mark your calendars. “Butterflies Alive,” the interactive exhibit where you walk among hundreds of live butterflies, will be back in the Spring/Summer of 2016.

Traffic411 Insider Tip:  Pack a picnic when you visit, there are several parks and shady spots nearby to enjoy your meal outdoors.

Check out the museum’s website at SBNature.org

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“Stand in the Sand” Santa Barbara

Hundreds of  concerned citizens come together for the "Stand in the Sand" rally on Sunday at De la Guerra Plaza (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Hundreds of concerned citizens come together for the “Stand in the Sand” rally on Sunday at De la Guerra Plaza (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Hundreds of citizens concerned about the environmental damage caused by the Refugio Oil Spill peacefully gathered in De la Guerra Plaza on Sunday to show their support for a fossil-fuel free future.

'Panzumo' drummers keep the beat at "Stand in the Sand" Sunday, May 31, 2015. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

‘Panzumo’ drummers keep the beat at “Stand in the Sand” Sunday, May 31, 2015. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Organizers of the “Stand in the Sand” community rally urged speakers and attendees to keep the messages positive. The vibe among the 500 attendees of all ages was cool and calm throughout the afternoon.  There were many families with young kids carrying signs decorated with fishes urging ‘save my ocean friends.’

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider kicked off the speeches. On stage with some city council member colleagues, Schneider described the distressing situation at the Refugio Oil Spill off the Gaviota coast.  “It’s still a shocking site. There’s black covered rocks, saturated soil, a strong smell still permeates the air.”  Schneider warned the crowd, “under the status quo we will see more spills in the future… but we’re here because we want to see another alternative.” She called for supporting efforts toward a clean energy future.

(Click the player below to listen to Mayor Helene Schneider’s speech)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf took the stage next.  “These past two weeks have not been a happy time,” said Wolf. “The pictures of extreme oil production and the impacts it’s had on our coast have been horrible.”

Sign carrying "Stand in the Sand" ralliers head for State Street for a walk to West Beach. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Sign carrying “Stand in the Sand” ralliers head for State Street for a walk to West Beach. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Angry over being denied early access to the spill site to survey damage, Wolf has spoken out about restricted access for reporters and others trying to get a first hand glimpse of the destruction the broken Refugio pipeline has caused.  She described her frustration when she keeps hearing that the tarred beaches are due to oil seeps (natural, or coming from offshore drilling platforms), “this is not a seep, this is an oil spill that’s affected our wildlife, our coastline.”

Ralliers "Stand in the Sand" on West Beach, to stand up for a clean energy future. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Ralliers “Stand in the Sand” on West Beach, to stand up for a clean energy future. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Katie Davis, head of the Santa Barbara area chapter of The Sierra Club, passionately said the environmental non-profit provided funds to help cover the costs of the “Stand in the Sand” rally “because the message coming out of Santa Barbara right now matters, not just to us, but to the planet” as lawmakers consider a proposal to drill off the California coastline and in other parts of the world.

(Click player below to listen to The Sierra Club message at Stand in the Sand)


After the speeches, the crowd marched peacefully down State Street to the beach. Lining up along the water’s edge of West Beach they held hands to form a human boom ‘to symbolically stem the rising black tide’ of oil.

Officers from the Santa Barbara Police Department made sure the crowd safely made it to the beach. Following the rally, officers blocked traffic as chanters carried a giant black inflatable pipeline back up State Street to De la Guerra Plaza following the beachfront demonstration.

Special thanks to Carpinteria-based photographer Ken Pfeiffer for sharing his wonderful photos with Traffic411 readers!

"Clean Energy" chanters carrying a giant inflatable pipeline march back up State Street following the "Stand in the Sand" rally on West Beach Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

“Clean Energy” chanters carrying a giant inflatable pipeline march back up State Street following the “Stand in the Sand” rally on West Beach Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Deep sea pioneer Jean Michel Costeau, a longtime area resident, described the detrimental impacts from oil drilling he's seeing on sea life all around the world.  (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Deep sea pioneer Jean Michel Costeau, a longtime area resident, described the detrimental impacts from oil drilling he’s seeing on sea life all around the world. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Members of Santa Barbara's 'Save the Mermaids" gather at the "Stand in the Sand" rally at De la Guerra Plaza May 31, 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Members of Santa Barbara’s ‘Save the Mermaids” gather at the “Stand in the Sand” rally at De la Guerra Plaza May 31, 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf at Stand in the Sand (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf at Stand in the Sand (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

 

Carpinteria based photographer, Ken Pfeiffer, and me on Stearn's Wharf for Stand in the Sand rally on West Beach (Photo John Brooks/Traffic411)

Carpinteria based photographer, Ken Pfeiffer, and me on Stearn’s Wharf for Stand in the Sand rally on West Beach (Photo John Brooks/Traffic411)

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Deadly Duo: Poison Oak & Hemlock

You can identify poison oak  by its shiny triple-leafs. Heat or water stressed plants turn a deep orange or red in some areas. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

You can identify poison oak by its shiny triple-leafs. Heat or water stressed plants turn a deep orange or red in some areas. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Santa Barbara hikers, watch your step at Romero Canyon: The trail is lined with poison oak and hemlock. I noticed the green shiny triple leafed plant, up and down the trail during a recent Mother’s Day hike. In many cases, the poisonous plant, sometimes scorched red in spots by heat and drought, was growing alongside small patches of hemlock.

And, Romero Canyon isn’t the only area hiking spot where you will run into poison oak or hemlock. You’ll find plenty of this toxic shrubbery along most of the hiking trails in Santa Barbara county, so it’s important to know what it looks like so you can avoid it.

It was wonderful to see water in Santa Barbara's  Romero Canyon, since California is in a severe drought. Romero is a shady hike, which offers hikers wonderful ocean views from the top of the canyon. There is a wide dirt road (sunny) path for hikers who make the loop, which is 6+ miles. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

It was wonderful to see water in Santa Barbara’s Romero Canyon, since California is in a severe drought. Romero is a shady hike, which offers hikers wonderful ocean views from the top of the canyon. There is a wide dirt road (sunny) path for hikers who want to take a loop back down the hill, which is 6+ miles. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Carpinteria photographer Ken Pfeiffer, an avid hiker, explains how to identify this deadly duo:

“Poison oak is a dense shrub in sunny areas, or a climbing vine in the shade.  It has three leaflets with scalloped edges, and can range from shiny green to red when it is heat or drought
stressed as in the fall. The plant contains an oily sap called urushiol which can create a severe allergic reaction, including an itchy rash. This allergic reaction can get worse with repeated exposure. Inhaling the smoke from burning the plant can create a very dangerous or fatal reaction.”

Pfeiffer continues, “Poison hemlock is a highly poisonous plant with lacy green leaves resembling carrot or a fern.  Eating the plant, or even touching it
can lead to poisoning.  The symptoms include dizziness, trembling,  paralysis and death by respiratory failure.”

Hemlock is often found growing next to poison oak.  Hikers can develop an itchy rash after touching or brushing up against this fern-like plant.  (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Hemlock is often found growing next to poison oak. Hikers can develop an itchy rash after touching or brushing up against this fern-like plant. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Make sure you don’t brush up against these poisonous plants while hiking. Getting the plant’s oily resin on your hand and then later touching your body, especially face or eyes, can be very dangerous. You might also want to wash hiking clothes when you get home from the trails to wash away any lingering toxic essence.

 

 

Heat  or water stressed poison oak turns a deep shade of orange and red. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Heat or water stressed poison oak turns a deep shade of orange and red. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: There are a lot of mountain cyclists on this narrow trail, keep an eye out for them as you trek up the hill.

Distance from LAX: 92 Miles

Prayer flags blow in the breeze along the path at Montecito/Santa Barbara's Romero Canyon (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Prayer flags blow in the breeze along the path at Montecito/Santa Barbara’s Romero Canyon (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

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SB Fork & Cork Classic

guy hamilton and crowd

2nd Annual Santa Barbara Cork and Fork Classic at the Montecito Country Club (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

good time

Enjoying the beautiful day (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

The weather was perfect for enjoying an afternoon of world class sips and bites at the Santa Barbara Fork and Cork Classic, presented by Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

The Kobe beef meatballs prepared by chefs from the Four Seasons were hard to beat. But, ravioli from Via Maestra 42, a Santa Barbara local favorite, was over-the-top yum!

Industrial Eats served salmon tacos, cut from the whole fish. Los Arroyos, Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar, Sama Sama Kitchen and Paxti’s Pizza were there, too.  There were also plenty of sweet treats.  

Fish tacos don't get much fresher than this, from Industrial Eats in Buellton (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Fish tacos don’t get much fresher than this, from Industrial Eats in Buellton (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Many of the area’s best winemakers poured some of their crowd-pleasers, from Richard Sanford’s Alma Rosa to Zaca Mesa.  Carpinteria’s Island Brewing Company featured two beers, including its Island Blonde, on tap.

The 'cork' in this year's Cork & Fork Classic, winemaker Blair Fox (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

The ‘cork’ in this year’s Cork & Fork Classic, winemaker Blair Fox (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Island Brewing Company, a Carpinteria staple, broke up the wine cartel serving two beers on tap. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Island Brewing Company, a Carpinteria staple, broke up the wine cartel, serving two beers on tap. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Chef Justin West of Julienne and winemaker Blair Fox of Blair Fox  Cellars were event honorees, recognized for their support of the SB Foodbank and the local community. 

West told me how he raised more than $14,000 for the SB Foodbank.  Much of that money came from a $10,000 grand prize from a contest held by the James Beard Foundation. The competition involved gathering the most social media posts. Chef Justin himself convinced the most diners to take a pic and post online, he even had to educate some Julienne guests about what a ‘hash tag’ was. For many, it was their first social media post.

Chef Justin West of Julienne  in Santa Barbara, was this year's chef honoree. He roasted two whole pigs for the event. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Chef Justin West of Julienne in Santa Barbara, was this year’s chef honoree. He roasted two whole pigs for the event. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

West said he was astonished that he won, because his restaurant was the only Santa Barbara restaurant in the competition, and he was up against multiple big-city restaurants from coast to coast. “Sometimes when  you’re smaller it’s easier to galvanize people,” he said. 

Judging by the sold out attendance, with most silent auction items going for their market value, this was a successful event for the SB Foodbank, who serves more than 300 local non-profits.

Spirits were high on the upper lawn of the Montecito Country Club as guests sipped, noshed and danced to the classic hits from the Temptations to Lynyrd Skynyrd, courtesy of Music by Bonnie.

Groovin' to the DJ tunes on a gorgeous Sunday (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Groovin’ to the DJ tunes on a gorgeous Sunday (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Bonnie and her DJ from Music by Bonnie entertained the crowd with a soundtrack of classic hits. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Bonnie and her DJ from Music by Bonnie entertained the crowd with a soundtrack of classic hits. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

This may just be my new favorite Santa Barbara area food & wine event, because it wasn’t overwhelmingly large. It was easy to get around and sample many of the offerings, see friends and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Photographer Eric Roland working overtime to get a bunch of great shots (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Photographer Eric Roland working overtime to get a bunch of great shots (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Me and super-photographer Ken Pfeiffer, enjoying the day.  (Photo Eric Roland)

Traffic411 ‘super-photog’ Ken Pfeiffer and me, enjoying the day. (Photo Eric Roland)

With PR whiz Kerry Allen at the Fork & Cork Classic, to benefit the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County (photo Ken Pfeiffer)

PR whiz Kerry Allen with Lisa at the Fork & Cork Classic, to benefit the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County (photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Prisciilla of "Santa Barbara Seen", who is usually behind the camera, lifts a glass with me at the SB Fork and Cork Classic. (Photo by Ken Pfeiffer)

Prisciilla of “Santa Barbara Seen”, usually behind the camera, raising a glass (and fork) with me at the SB Fork and Cork Classic. (Photo by Ken Pfeiffer)

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Lotusland: a Santa Barbara ‘hidden gem’

The pond in the Japanese Garden at Lotusland. The private estate turned world-class gardens is one of Santa Barbara's hidden gems. (Photo Traffic411)

The pond in the Japanese Garden at Lotusland. The private estate turned world-class gardens is one of Santa Barbara’s hidden gems. (Photo Traffic411)

Earlier this year I moved to Santa Barbara. As a native Californian, I’m used to nice weather, but the beauty of nature here along the ‘South Coast’ is truly something to behold. There are many hidden gems here in Santa Barbara, which I will be blogging about in the coming weeks and months.

Lotusland is one of Santa Barbara’s finest “Hidden Gems.” The former home of the free spirited opera star and socialite Madame Ganna Walksa, this 37 acre gated estate in Montecito is a plant lover’s paradise.

Visitors can stroll through several distinct gardens, including the Blue Garden, Tropical Garden, Japanese Garden, Cactus Garden, and Succulent Garden. There’s even a Cycad Garden, filled with ancient plants.  Statues and other unique decorations adorn the gardens, all collected thorough Madame Waska’s connections and world travels.

Lotusland: A Santa Barbara Hidden Gem

Lotusland is one of Santa Barbara’s finest “Hidden Gems.” The former home of the free spirited opera star and socialite Madame Ganna Walksa, this 37 acre gated estate in Montecito is a plant lover’s paradise.

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(Photo: Lotusland)
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(Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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(Photo: KenPfeiffer/ Traffic411)
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(Photo: Lotusland)
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A collection of empty bird cages are art at the "Flock: Birds on the Brink" exhibit at Lotusland through May 2015. (Photo: Lotusland)
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(Photo: Lotusland)
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Remarkably, the world class gardens at Lotusland are fully self-sustainable.  No pesticides have been used for 20 years. It cost of maintaining the gardens is $3 million dollars a year, which makes the $45 admission price for a docent-led tour understandable.

Shell pool at Lotusland (Photo: Traffic411)

Shell pool at Lotusland (Photo: Traffic411)

Because of its location in one of the area’s fanciest neighborhoods, the garden is not open year-round, and the number of visitors is limited.  But, by planning ahead and being flexible, it should be easy to book a reservation.

Related: Santa Barbara poets read their poems inspired by Flock at Lotusland

Through May 23, 2015, Lotusland is featuring a special exhibit “Flock: Birds on the Brink.” This unique exhibition features all kinds of birds in artwork.  From the rock ‘n roll themed “Flutter and Strum,” featuring small birds in a big cage, perched on an amped up electric guitar, to the campy “Put it on my Bill” diorama featuring ducks in a speakeasy bar. There’s even a chair with feather wings, which flap in sync with the breath of the person who is sitting in it.

"Murder of Crows" is one of the outdoor art exhibits (part of "Flock: Birds on the Brink") at Lotusland. (Photo Traffic411)

“Murder of Crows” is one of the outdoor art exhibits (part of “Flock: Birds on the Brink”) at Lotusland. (Photo Traffic411)

Through a generous grant program, hundreds of Santa Barbara-area fourth graders get to visit Lotusland each year. Currently, children come from as far away as Santa Maria to be treated to this one-of-a-kind garden. Lotusland truly is a Santa Barbara treasure.

Watch the video “Flying Through Lotusland”

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: If you plan to visit more than once, consider purchasing an annual pass. It’s $75 to visit as much as you want, and allows you to purchase additional guest passes at a substantial (40%) discount.

Distance from LAX: 95 miles

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