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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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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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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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