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Summer in Santa Barbara Shines with Old Spanish Days Fiesta 2019


2019 poster for Old Spanish Days Fiesta

Image courtesy of Old Spanish Days

Summer in Santa Barbara is especially vibrant and memorable thanks to the annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta. This is the time residents and visitors are invited to immerse themselves in the history, culture, and spirit of Santa Barbara. Now celebrating its 95th year, this community-wide festival, which takes place July 31 to August 4,  is considered to be a summer staple. As in the past, this year will feature a variety of interesting markets, lively performances, and a colorful parade.

Spirit of Community

One of the things that makes Fiesta truly unique among other festivals and events is that it is run by a volunteer Board of Directors and supported by only one full-time staff member. The Board of Directors annually elects an El Presidente or La Presidenta to preside over the Board and serve as the general manager of the organization. In 2019, La Presidenta Barbara Carroll was elected to lead the historic organization.

“I’m truly honored to represent Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara,” said La Presidenta Barbara Carroll. “I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, and Fiesta has been a huge part of my life since I was a small child. Some of my earliest memories are of the Fiesta parade. I love helping put on Fiesta every year for the community, and I have enjoyed participating ever since I was a Flower Girl.”

Fiesta showcases the warmth, generosity, and sense of fun Santa Barbara residents have to offer. This year’s theme is “Spirit of Community.”

“My theme, ‘Spirit of Community’, was inspired by the way members of our community come together and selflessly donate their time and talents to make Fiesta happen each and every year,” said Carroll, adding, “I wanted to honor the theme and so I chose people who have been involved behind the scenes in our community in a multitude of ways, and each of them has had an impact on making Fiesta successful.”

The numerous celebrations and events that take place in various locations around the city are a gift to the community, providing an opportunity to get involved and remember and rejoice in our shared history and culture. Every year thousands of residents give the gift of their time to volunteer by working behind the scenes at one of the many special events. Spread joy as a Flower Girl, perform as a dancer or musician, ride in the parade, compete in the rodeo, or just come to enjoy it all as a spectator. No matter what one decides to do, Fiesta brings the entire community to life. 

Cascarones and more!

Everyone is invited to watch the parade, dance in the streets, and eat until they are stuffed. Most importantly, kids love to join in the fun of cascarones – a time-honored tradition of cracking a confetti-filled egg on a friend’s head.

Here’s a look at some of the must-see Fiesta events:

Wednesday, July 31

Fun for All at El Mercado del Norte, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
3098 La Positas Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Head to Mackenzie Park on the corner of State and Las Positas Streets, for the official kick-off of the Old Spanish Days festivities with a special concert at El Mercado del Norte. Enjoy live music, eat your heart out at the delicious food vendors, have fun on the carnival rides and games, and then cool off in the beer garden. Don’t forget to stroll through the Fiesta Bazaar to pick up some unique, memorable keepsakes. 

La Fiesta Pequeña, 8 p.m.
2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Bring your blankets for a picnic on the Mission lawn at the Old Mission Santa Barbara. Watch the colorful August sun set slowly behind the “Queen of the Missions,” as you are entertained by La Fiesta Pequeña, or “Little Fiesta.” The colorful, historical program includes traditional songs and dances from Californios, Flamenco, Spanish classical and Mexican folklorico. 

Thursday, August 1

El Mercado de la Guerra, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
0 East De la Guerra Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Head to De La Guerra Plaza where a colorful Mexican market awaits. Once there, you and your family can feast on Spanish and Mexican-American foods, shop, and enjoy live entertainment all day into the early evening. Not to worry if you can’t make it on Thursday because this Mercado will remain open throughout Fiesta.

costumed character dances with young woman

Fritz Olenberger courtesy of Old Spanish Days

DIGS! (Celebración de los Dignatarios) at the Santa Barbara Zoo, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
DIGS is Old Spanish Days’ wildest and most talked about event, held at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Stroll the lush gardens, sip the finest wines and tequilas, and devour food from the area’s finest eateries. Participants can party the night away to the sounds of DJ Hecktik.  This event is for guests 21+ only. 

Friday, August 2

El Desfile Histórico (Historical Parade), 12 p.m. ‘noon’
Starting at West Cabrillo Blvd to State Street, the parade will then finish at 1500 State Street
The Fiesta Historical Parade is the main attraction. This cherished tradition in Santa Barbara is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades, which features more than 600 horses, along with antique carriages, coaches and wagons. Set up your lawn chair ahead of time along State Street to reserve your spot. Sit back and cheer, as you’ll be in clear view of parade floats, dancers and all the fun from the heart of downtown Santa Barbara.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
227 N Nopal St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Gather at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado for some of the best, authentic, flavorful and entertaining, traditions of fiesta. This Mercado, open Friday to Sunday, serves up some authentic Mexican cuisine, for a delicious taste of what Old Spanish Days is all about. 

Fiesta at Paseo Nuevo, Various Times
651 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara, CA 9310
Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara’s premier shopping destination, will be open all week long in celebration of Old Spanish Day’s Fiesta. Watch Flamenco dance performances there as well as live music in Center Court.

Fritz Olenberger courtesy of Old Spanish Days

Saturday, August 3

Annual El Desfile De Los Niños (Children’s Parade), 10 a.m.
State Street from Victoria Street to Ortega
The official Children’s Parade is so charming, you won’t want to miss it. Watch as children parade down State Street dressed in traditional costumes to celebrate the rich culture of the area. Again, secure your spot ahead of time.

Casa Cantina, 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
15 E De La Guerra St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
If you are 21 and over, you are invited to celebrate Fiesta where it all began. Kick back, relax, sip a cold drink, and celebrate in the courtyard of the historic Casa de la Guerra, the home of Fiesta Casa Cantina. Don’t worry if you can’t make it on Saturday because Casa de la Guerra will be open Wednesday, July 31 to Saturday, August 3. 

Sunday, August 4

West Coast Symphony’s 47th Annual Free Fiesta Concert, 3:30 p.m.
1100 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 9310)
At the beautiful Sunken Gardens at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, you can enjoy an afternoon of beautiful music conducted by Dr. Michael Shasberger. Bring the entire family. Just pack a picnic and snacks, and don’t forget about your blanket or comfy lawn chairs where you can sit back and relax while the music takes you back in time to when Fiesta first began.

Fritz Olenberger courtesy of Old Spanish Days

Rodeo Performance, 2 p.m.
3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
The rodeo is the Fiesta’s final event. Held at Earl Warren Showgrounds, watch as riders compete in Bareback Riding, Tie-down Roping, Steer Stopping, Team Penning, Mutton Bustin’ and Saddle Bronco Riding, plus PRCA Team Roping, Barrel-Racing, and Bull Riding.

Just like summer in Santa Barbara wouldn’t be the same without the Old Spanish Days Fiesta, the amazing community wouldn’t be the same without you! If you are considering moving in the area, please call me at +1 805.886.9378 or email me at See you at Fiesta!


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