Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days Fiesta
A Historic Cultural Festival
Old Spanish Days Fiesta tradition that has continued for over 90 years in Santa Barbara, California. Old Spanish Days Fiesta is a platform for creating educational awareness regarding the rich history, customs, and traditions of the American Indian, Spanish, Mexican, and early American settlers that comprise the cultural heritage of Santa Barbara.
Old Spanish Days Fiesta has grown in stature and reputation to become one of the top regional festivals the largest Latin cultural festival in the US. This week long event attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. Fiesta performers travel from all throughout the US and Mexico to participate. Celebrities of international renown who have participated or performed in Fiesta include Leo Carrillo, Will Rogers, Shirley Temple, Charles Lindberg, William Randolph Hearst, Don Wilson, Paul Whitman, and Delores Del Rio.
I have covered the Festival two years in a row for one of the corporate sponsors and have utterly and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Last year I shot video primarily and this year I shot still photos exclusively. Both provide their own unique challenges and are rewarding in their own way.
Old Spanish Days Fiesta consists of a series of events which start months before the actual celebration - a dance competition where the "Spirit" and "Junior Spirit" are selected. These dancers embody the very essence of the Festival and become the ambassadors through dance for all of events.
Below are photo selections and commentary from the events I attended:
Sunday, August 2nd 2015La Recepción del Presidente
Every year, La Recepción del Presidente kicks off Fiesta week. A wonderful evening in the beautiful outdoor Plaza del Sol at the Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, this event brings together Fiesta history with the excitement of the Fiesta to come. Guests are greeted by the official receiving line of El Presidente and his family as well as his Fiesta family including the Spirits, Saint Barbara and Vice Presidentes.
The evening includes guests in their finest Fiesta attire, an amazing authentic Mexican meal, entertainment by talented artists including the Spirits. The night concludes with dancing as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean.
Wednesday, August 5th 2015La Fiesta Pequeña
Being that the most important Fiestas in the Spanish and Mexican tradition have always been closely connected with church celebrations, it is only fitting that Santa Barbara's annual Fiesta has included traditions with the historic Old Mission Santa Barbara. With the gracious involvement of the Franciscan Fathers, those traditions continue today.
As the August sun slowly sets behind the “Queen of the Missions”, experience the Franciscans hospitality as they welcome all to enjoy the official opening of Old Spanish Days Fiesta at this beautiful setting as they have since 1927. La Fiesta Pequeña, “Little Fiesta”, is a colorful, historical program which includes traditional songs and dance from Californios, Flamenco, Spanish classical and Mexican folklorico, and special performances from the Spirit and Junior Spirit. This event is free to the public.
Thursday, August 6th 2015Celebración de los Dignatarios
Dignatarios kicks off Fiesta week with the wildest party in Santa Barbara. This is where so many people associated with the Fiesta, from sponsors and volunteers to civic leaders and community supporters get to cut loose and mingle while tasting examples of the regions best cuisine and wine.
Friday, August 7th 2015El Desfile Histórico (Historical Parade) -
This year marks the 91st anniversary of the Fiesta Historical Parade. It is unique to Santa Barbara and features floats depicting episodes from the history of the state and city. Descendants of local Native Americans, Spanish Pioneers, the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, and local service clubs and organizations all reenact historical scenes. It is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades, featuring over 600 horses, as well as many antique carriages, coaches and wagons. The parade starts at the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard, proceeds east along the beach to State Street, then up State Street to Sola Street.
The First Historical Parade
Over the years, the character of the parade changed somewhat: the floats came to be drawn by motorized vehicles, more individuals and riding groups wearing their own or their organization's distinctive attire began to participate, and the number of marching band entries increased. Due to these changes, some feared that the historical character of the parade was in jeopardy of completely disappearing. In recent years an effort has been made to deal with these concerns. The parade is now divided into two sections: the historical section, which has been carefully revised and is mainly presented on the floats depicting highlights of local heritage and history, and "Santa Barbara of Today", which includes the many other types of participation based in accord with the spirit and purpose of Fiesta.