Santa Barbara Fiesta

Intelligent Travel pal Megan Sneddon contributes a tip about annual Santa Barbara Fiesta, which starts today and continues throughout the week:

Arriving with just as much folklórico dancing as fanfare, Santa Barbara, California’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta will be in full swing over the next few days, and kicks off today on the steps of the historic Old Mission. This year’s theme: Viva La Comunidad, or long live the community!

In its 84-year history, Fiesta has become a cultural celebration highly anticipated by local and international spectators alike, perhaps because it is the only time of year when it is acceptable to wear oversized sombreros in public and chant, “Ole, Ole Ole!” without receiving a disdainful glare. The first official Fiesta was held in 1924 with the opening of the Lobero Theatre which was named in honor of Guiseppe “José” Lobero, a famed Italian trombonist and singer. Both the celebration and the theater remain lofty manifestations of the modern-day town.

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Today, Fiesta — slated to run from July 30 through August 3 — brings together a diverse audience to revel in mariachi music, dirt-kicking rodeos, and a smorgasbord of authentic Mexican cuisine. All restaurants and bars along State Street, located in the town center, are packed with merrymakers launching confetti-filled eggs at each other, which they purchase from one of several street vendors.

The weeklong celebration, however, is not only amusement but also a continuation of the city’s heritage from the Spanish, Mexican, and North American pioneers who originally founded Santa Barbara.

Some highlights include the following:

La Fiesta Pequeña:
At 8 p.m. on July 30, Fiesta’s opening celebration of traditional song and dance is a must-see event for all ages.

Los Mercados:
A series of markets spread throughout town selling souvenirs and some of the most delectable, cultural dishes.

Las Noches de Ronda:
Free nightly Spanish music and dancing at the Courthouse’s Sunken Gardens beginning at 8 p.m.

¡Viva la Fiesta!

Check out Catherine Karnow’s Santa Barbara photo gallery on Traveler’s website.

Photos Patrick Turner via Flickr