Old Spanish Days leaders announce theme and plans for August event
This year’s Old Spanish Days theme couldn’t be clearer.
That theme was chosen by El Presidente David Bolton, who joined other Old Spanish Days leaders and city officials to announce the theme Monday morning on the steps of Santa Barbara City Hall. They were joined by local folkloric group Alma de Mexico.
In addition to the theme, officials announced plans for the Fiesta, which will feature everything from traditional parades to a replica of explorer Juan Cabrillo’s ship visiting Santa Barbara Harbor.
Set for Aug. 2-6, the Fiesta is more than just a party, El Presidente Bolton stressed.
“It’s about family, friends, neighbors and colleagues,” he said. “Fiesta is so special and so unique to Santa Barbara. We come together every year as a community to celebrate our history, traditions and culture. Throughout this year, ‘Let’s Fiesta’!”
In addition to the theme, officials announced that the historic parade, El Desfile Histórico, will return to Cabrillo Boulevard with a longer route from Castillo Street to Milpas.
Traditionally on State Street, the first in-person historic Fiesta parade since the pandemic took place last year on Cabrillo Boulevard. State Street hasn’t been used for parades since the advent of outdoor dining parklets at downtown restaurants.
At Monday’s news conference, Tony Miller, the division chief of pageantry, said people are excited to see the parade back on Cabrillo Boulevard.
“Cabrillo Boulevard is one of our most historic stretches,” he said. “It was an important area for the Chumash. Later Spaniard Gaspar de Portola traveled along the route during his 1769 overland trek, and the boulevard is named after Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, whose ship, the San Salvador, came through our channel in 1542.”
In fact, a full-size replica of the San Salvador will visit the Santa Barbara harbor during Fiesta, and the public can go aboard for tours. The ship is traveling from its home at the San Diego Maritime Museum as part of a collaboration between Old Spanish Days and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
Officials also said a full Mercado and carnival has received the green light to return to its historic roots at the beach. And they confirmed that the people will again see traditional events ranging from Fiesta Pequeña to the Rodeo to Noches de Ronda.
“Our organization, the city and our collaborative partners work very hard year-round to pull off a safe and memorable Fiesta,” said El Presidente Bolton. “We are looking forward to a great 2023 Fiesta.”
Officials spoke enthusiastically about other Fiesta news, including the return of the Fiesta carnival and a full Mercado and beer garden to the area near Santa Barbara City College’s La Playa Stadium. Historically, the carnival was first held there, before moving to MacKenzie Park as part of Mercado del Norte, which began in 1979.
The city of Santa Barbara is allowing the rebranded Mercado de la Playa to run Thursday-Sunday, providing a venue for a Sunday afternoon of Fiesta.
“This is fantastic news for our community, and for families and others who enjoy spending a Sunday afternoon together,” said El Presidente Bolton. “Throughout the logistical meetings to bring a full Mercado and carnival back to the beach area, city officials showed a tremendous commitment to the community and to Fiesta history.”
Fiesta 2023 also will feature the return of Mercado De la Guerra, with dancers, musicians and food booths operated by nonprofits and businesses.
“The Fiesta Mercados are a special gathering place where the community can come together and feast on Spanish and Mexican-American food, enjoy live entertainment, and also shop for crafts and souvenirs,” said Andrea Caplan, the division chief of marketplaces. “What makes it so special is supporting the numerous local nonprofits, restaurants and talented musicians that reside in our jewel of a city.”
The festival will kick off with Fiesta Pequeña at the Santa Barbara Mission and Noches de Ronda’s three nights of entertainment at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Garden.
“Music and dance are celebrated with passion throughout Santa Barbara during Fiesta week, capturing the heart and soul of Santa Barbara traditions,” said Patricia Oreña, the division chief of dance and entertainment. “Fiesta brings together musicians and dancers of all ages to showcase their talents for everyone to enjoy and admire.”
Fiesta 2023 will also include an arts and crafts show, the Fiesta Rodeo, and a variety of dance shows and networking celebrations including La Primavera on May 13 at El Paseo Restaurant, Goleta’s Fiesta Ranchera, Dignatarios at the Zoo and La Recepción del Presidente.
“Fiesta means bringing our community together with family, friends and others to celebrate our heritage, enjoy the dancing, food and lots of happiness together,” said Janice Howell, division chief of celebrations.
The year for Fiesta kicks off with the Spirit of Fiesta Audition April 15 at the Lobero Theatre, the organizers of Santa Barbara’s first Fiesta in 1924. Tickets will go on sale Wednesday at the Lobero box office (lobero.org and 805-963-0761).
Since 1924, the city of Santa Barbara has played its role in the Fiesta, and Mayor Randy Rowse announced at Monday’s news conference that the city would continue its partnership with Old Spanish Days.
“Old Spanish Days brings our city our most time-honored and treasured tradition — Fiesta,” Mayor Rowse said. “The dancers, food, music and crowds make this celebration the largest community party of the year. Let’s Fiesta!”
Old Spanish Days officials also recognized Santa Barbara County and the city of Goleta for their support of Fiesta.
El Primer Vice Presidente Brian Schwabecher noted that the Fiesta requires thousands of volunteer hours and welcomes new volunteers. “Fiesta is a community effort.”
All of the Fiesta events are open to the public.
“This is made possible thanks to our sponsors and collaborative partners who are committed to the 99-year tradition that has been recognized as Santa Barbara’s No. 1 annual event, ” said El Segundo Vice Presidente Fritz Olenberger.