As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shut down local festivals, gatherings, and celebrations, one Santa Barbara summer favorite refuses to go down without a fight.
On Thursday, the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration announced that although it will suspend its annual community workshops and three-day festival, the party will continue online.
Keeping the Solstice spirit alive and thriving, staff and volunteers are in the process of planning a plethora of free and donation-based online classes and gatherings in May and June and possibly beyond.
Throughout the month of May and June, the Summer Solstice Celebration will offer online art classes, dance classes, and various types of gatherings for artists and community members, including live-streamed musical performances.
The community will be able to participate through live-streaming via Facebook at www.facebook.com/SBSolstice/ and a webinar-style signup accessed with a link received via email. The first workshops are expected to be held the first week of May, and will continue to get rolled out through email, Facebook, and on www.solsticeparade.com.
Staff and volunteers are also planning a Friday and Saturday online festival concept with some kind of virtual parade.
“We’re still trying to figure out what that’s going to look like,” said Robin Elander, executive director for the Summer Solstice Celebration.
Applications and ideas for workshops and events have already begun to pour in.
“There’s already community members that are going to be offering different types of dance classes, drumming classes, mask-making classes, live-streaming music. The stuff that’s coming out is really robust and just as exciting as it would have been. Maybe a different type of exciting as it would have been in the park and in the street, but some creative ideas,” Ms. Elander told the News-Press.
While the celebration won’t be the same as it has been since 1974, Ms. Elander hopes it will offer new opportunities and a way for the 100,000 participants who usually descend on downtown Santa Barbara every June to still be a part of the fun.
“The intimacy is different with people in their living room, and you can see musicians up close and personal in a way that you couldn’t in a festival and stage concept. You get to know people in a different way than you otherwise would. It’s a unique change but there’s a lot of good that’s coming out of it,” said Ms. Elander.
The Summer Solstice has been considering alternative plans for the last month and a half as conditions worsened and gatherings were restricted and ultimately cancelled altogether when stay-at-home orders were issued.
“Now we’re really looking at the feasibility of putting on a large-scale gathering in the foreseeable future. This year it’s really not in the cards,” said Ms. Elander.
Not content to cancel the celebration entirely, Ms. Elander and the Summer Solstice staff looked for a way to keep the festival going in some form.
“The alternative was doing nothing and we weren’t willing to do that,” said Ms. Elander
“We wanted to continue to support the community and allow a creative outlet for our residents, and really the greater region and beyond.”
The transition has been quite the process, as Ms. Elander has been connecting with the Summer Solstice board, staff and volunteers in the last few weeks trying to determine how they might go about it. Thankfully, it is becoming the norm to do online activities, she explained.
“Initially it was very difficult to even fathom how you might turn something like Summer Solstice into an online gathering. It just doesn’t feel right until you take some time with it. It still can be exciting for people,” said Ms. Elander.
In addition to the virtual workshops and festival, Summer Solstice is partnering with the UCSB Museum of Art, Architecture and Design for an online Solstice “parade of history,” a special exhibit showcasing a sampling of the organization’s 45-year history started by Michael Gonzalez in 1974.
“That will be not only on their website and social media feeds, but also linked to our website as well,” said Ms. Elander.
The “question of the hour,” as Ms. Elander put it, is whether or not the Summer Solstice parade will be rescheduled for later in the year.
“We are open to it. We want to gauge what conditions are looking like within a few months to see if that could be possible,” said Ms. Elander. “Late fall or winter we are open to kind of an alternative parade date concept, but we’re holding off the decision as to putting a stake in the ground as to a particular date or time because the world is just changing so rapidly that it’s too difficult to plan something yet.”
At the end of the first week of May and into early June, the community can expect virtual workshops to begin and more information on what the festival will look like, said Ms. Elander.
Applications for different Summer Solstice opportunities are open, and Ms. Elander is trying to invite people to apply by April 24.
Applications include opportunities like: artists and performers teaching an online class; musicians and bands streaming live music; online gathering proposals; vendors, exhibitors and artists showcasing their retail business or artwork; and showcasing restaurants as part of a virtual food court.
Applications will be vetted on a first-come, first-serve basis with a priority for local contributors. For more information on Summer Solstice Celebration’s modified plans and how you can participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.solsticeparade.com. A full list of applications can be found at https://conta.cc/3bgge1w.
“We’ll also continue to take applications after (April 24), but we want to have at least an initial group ready then,” said Ms. Elander.
Because the Summer Solstice is not able to go on in parade form, the organization has lost a majority of its income and is looking for sponsors and donations to keep the celebration alive.
If you would like to sponsor a class, live-stream event or online gathering, you can reach out to email@example.com.
Donations can be made via https://solsticeparade.com/support/donate.
“We’ll get through this together,” said Ms. Elander. “Participate and bring the Solstice spirit to our entire community.”