It’s that time of year again! Old Spanish Days Fiesta starting Wednesday July 31st and ending Sunday August 4th is HERE! Our relationship with our towns biggest celebration is interesting, yes? I always think to myself, “Again? Really? Have we even cleaned up the confetti from last year?” Through the years though, my perspective of the week’s long party has changed. Honestly, I love it when I’m not working in restaurants dealing with all the confetti clean up, and the customers who have partaken in the festivities a bit too much. Since having children, I have had a greater understanding and appreciation of what Fiesta means. This enriching experience is one that I look forward to year after year. The celebration of Santa Barbara’s heritage and traditions has plenty of fun for all ages. From parades, carnivals, entertainment, rodeos, dancing, confetti in the streets and stuffing our bellies full of traditional treats, one can’t help but have a good time.
My favorite part of Fiesta has to be how our community comes together to celebrate the culture and tradition. This year marks the 95th year of these festivities. Barbara Carroll, this years La Presidenta states it beautifully. “The heart and soul of any community are the people who give back to make it a better place. So many people in our city give of themselves to make Old Spanish Days Fiesta happen each year. It is this participation that I believe makes Fiesta the best of all of Santa Barbara’s amazing festivals.” She chose this years theme “The Spirit of Community” to showcase the amazing relationship we have with the tradition of Fiesta. All the thousands of volunteers giving themselves to make this event possible “truly manifests the spirit of our community. It reflects the spirit of the people who work hard, enjoy life, good food, music, song and dance.”
Santa Barbara Moms have put together some highlights of events that are our favorite and can’t be missed!
To start Fiesta we love going to La Fiesta Pequeña, (Wednesday 7/31 at 8PM at the Old Mission Santa Barbara) The Mission Santa Barbara has been home to the official opening of Old Spanish Days since 1927. Bring your blanket, pack picnic, and sit on the Mission lawn amongst the colorful rose garden. Enjoy watching the kickoff, La Fiesta Pequeña, “Little Fiesta.” This historical tradition features traditional songs and dances from Californios, Flamenco, Spanish classical and Mexican folklorico. (2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105)
El Mercado del Norte, (Wednesday 7/31 -Sunday 8/4 11AM – 11PM) Located at Mackenzie Park on the corner of State and Las Positas Streets. This is one of the most fun for kids- there are carnival rides and games, live music, and tons of delicious food vendors. For parents there is a beer garden and shopping for memorable keepsakes (3098 La Positas Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105)
We also love El Mercado de la Guerra, (Wednesday 7/31- Saturday 8/3 11AM – 11PM) Located in De La Guerra Plaza, on the first block of East De la Guerra. Grab a churro, feast on other Spanish and Mexican-American foods, shop for crafts and souvenirs, and enjoy the live festive entertainment. (0 East De la Guerra Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101)
Absolutely can’t miss the “El Desfile Histórico” Historical Parade, (Friday 8/2 at 12PM) The 95th Fiesta Historical Parade has to be the favorite when it comes to Santa Barbara traditions. It is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades. The kids love this one- They can expect to see over 600 horses, antique carriages, coaches and wagons, and probably get a few eggs of confetti cracked on themselves as well. Make sure to save a spot along State Street early. Starting at West Cabrillo Blvd and State Street, the parade will then finish at 1500 block of State Street.
In our opinion the BEST and most authentic food can be found at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado, (Friday 8/2- Sunday 8/4 11AM-9PM) Flavorful and Traditional- Grab a delicious taste of what Old Spanish Days is all about. (227 N Nopal St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103)
Another parade is the El Desfile De Los Niños “Children’s Parade”, (Saturday 8/3 at 10AM) This Parade starts down State Street, from Victoria Street to Ortega Street. Get ready for the most amazing and traditional costumes to celebrate the Old Spanish Days culture.