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Fiesta and the Lobero Theatre

Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre reopened 91 years ago today.

Credit for establishing Santa Barbara’s first community theatre goes to Italian Senor Jose Lobero.  As the story is told…  in July of 1870, Lobero advertised in the Santa Barbara Press that he intended to form a band, and soon a brass band was playing around Santa Barbara at places like the old post office building. In need of a home, Jose began building an adobe theatre. The new facility, which took some time to complete, was formally opened on February 22, 1873, with a “grand Italian Operatic Concert” directed by Lobero himself.

Lobero’s original theater (pictured below), with over 1,000 seats, was too large for the Santa Barbara population of around 3,000. The theatre struggled for many years before it was condemned and eventually torn down. A fund-raising campaign to restore the theatre started in 1922 and preliminary work on a new Lobero Theatre commenced in January, 1923. The new playhouse was re-opened on August 4, 1924 for a sold-out play titled, “the Beggar on Horseback.”

Santa Barbara celebrated this opening with the inaugural Old Spanish Days Fiesta.

Get Fiesta Ready at Victorian Vogue

last min fiesta 001Old Spanish Days kicks off tomorrow and it’s not too late to get Fiesta ready at Victorian Vogue. Santa Barbara View caught up with Sonia Hayward who had this to say, “Fiesta brings us an infusion of different groups of the community — all ages and socio economic backgrounds. We love the energy these celebrants bring to both the store and our staff. Generally we dress in Fiesta wear all week and offer nibbles to our customers. It’s a time to remember Santa Barbara’s roots.”

The store on upper State Street rents and sells everything from formal authentic Spanish attire to Zorro costumes to Mexican sombreros and ponchos and everything in between. “We believe the party begins with the preparation!”, said Sonia. “Time and again old friends reunite here and strangers become friends in the process of renting their outfits for the various events. Once we even had a man ask a young woman to accompany him to a private fiesta party!

When you dress in the appropriate garb, you are treated like a part of the festivities instead of a detached audience. Our consultants are able to dress you head to toe.”

dancerSo get down to Victorian Vogue 4289 State St and get Fiesta ready for this 90th year celebration. Viva la Fiesta!

Five Santa Barbara Fiesta Family Traditions

My family loves Fiesta! (And, sadly, we won’t be in Santa Barbara this year to enjoy the festivities.) I wrote this blog article giving an overview for families looking to enjoy Fiesta for the first time. – Melissa Moore

Practically any day of the year is a good day to be vacationing in Santa Barbara, but my favorite time of the year to return to my hometown is the first week of August. That’s when the city hosts its biggest family friendly party of the year, Old Spanish Days Fiesta. During Fiesta, families can enjoy the culture and history of Santa Barbara with all five senses– from watching the colorful dresses of the Flamenco dancers twirling together in unison to smelling the tri-tip roasting on the grill at El Mercado.

5. Dancing
During Fiesta week, children and adults of all ages perform their traditional dances at just about every plaza in town from El Paseo Nuevo to El Mercado de la Guerra. However, the true highlights of the week are the flamenco and Mexican folklórico dances performed during the evening hours at La Fiesta Pequeña and Las Noches de Ronda. La Fiesta Pequeña, held Wednesday night on the steps of the Mission Santa Barbara, marks the beginning of Fiesta and is arguably the marquee event of the week. While there are no tickets for this free event, spectators start reserving their places on the lawn for La Fiesta Pequeña up to eleven hours before the performance begins at 8PM.

It is hard to imagine a more remarkable backdrop for these festive displays of dance than the “Queen of the Missions,” but the Santa Barbara Courthouse’s Sunken Gardens, the site of Las Noches de Ronda, is certainly just as spectacular. Despite having enjoyed dozens of tacos and tamales at El Mercado over the years, I had never experienced Las Noches de Ronda until my sister and I decided to bring my four-year-old, ballet-loving daughter a couple of years ago. I was a bit concerned that it would be a little too late at night or a bit too close to the Lower State Street adult, party scene, but I needn’t have worried. We all had a great time at the family friendly performance; indeed, there were children of all ages enjoying the festivities while snacking on treats from the nearby food vendors. We were even able to leave quite easily when my daughter tired of the show after about 90 minutes, only a couple of performances before intermission.

4. History and Horses
The El Desfile Histórico, the Historical Parade, and the Fiesta Stock Horse Show and Rodeo, including the Competencia de los Vaqueros, are two of the hallmark events of the Old Spanish Days festival. Both of these events celebrate the local history of the Ranchos, the land-grants given in the early 19th century by Spain and Mexico to those settling the land for the purposes of cattle and sheep farming. Families with older children that love horses will enjoy the daytime rodeo events held out at Earl Warren Showground; make sure you plan ahead for rodeo events as some require tickets.

Friday afternoon’s El Desfile Histórico is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades featuring over 600 horses. But it’s not just a parade of cowboys; there are also floats depicting the history of Santa Barbara and telling the tale of Native Americans, Spaniards, and Mexicans who lived in the area two hundred years ago. Of course, the parade is led off by the Spirit of Fiesta, the teenage dancer picked in an annual competition leading up to the festival, and El Presidente, the local dignitary and symbolic head of the celebration.

3. Children’s Parade
I have been to the Children’s Parade, also referred to as El Desfile De Los Niños, more times than I can remember. This event, held annually on the Saturday morning of Fiesta by the Santa Barbara City Parks and Recreation Department, is more of a local community tradition than an impressive, commercialized event. Nonetheless, it holds a certain place in my childhood memories because it was customary for the dancers and children marching in the parade to throw candy to kids on the sidelines. Rest-assured, modern parents, the candy has now been replaced with flower petals and fortunately, your kids won’t even know the difference.

My kids enjoyed the colorful Children’s Parade just as much as I did when I was a kid. Watching all the kids dressed up in their red, green, and white, Fiesta is at its finest when dancing down the street and yelling “Viva la Fiesta” on a bright Saturday morning. With all of Santa Barbara’s beautiful landscaping, the curb along the parade route fills up fast. Be sure to get to the parade route early, send someone off to buy some cascarones, and enjoy this Santa Barbara experience.

2. Food
My favorite part of Fiesta as an adult has become the food, specifically the torta sandwiches traditionally sold in the corner of el Mercado de la Guerra by the entrance to the News Press Building. (Look for a long line and follow the smell of the tri-tip roasting on the grill.) Since many Fiesta goers are locals or at least frequent the festival as a family tradition year after year, food stalls with longer lines are typically worth the wait. From the fresh fruit drinks to the Mexican-style grilled corn on the cob, there’s something here even for the pickiest of eaters.

There are two primary locations to go for Fiesta food: El Mercado de la Guerra and El Mercado del Norte. El Mercado del Norte is located outside of downtown on upper State Street at Mackenzie Park and has carnival rides in addition to the entertainment and food while El Mercado de la Guerra is located less than a block from the El Paseo Nuevo Mall in de la Guerra Plaza adjacent to Santa Barbara City Hall (not to be confused with the famous courthouse) and the Santa Barbara News Press building. Crowds flock to the much more scenic and convenient de la Guerra location, but if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of ambience, the food is just as yummy at the del Norte location.

1. Cascarones
Enthusiastically voted by my children as the best part of Fiesta, cascarones are confetti filled eggs that can be smashed to make tiny pieces of paper fly everywhere. While Papa was by far my kids’ favorite target, no one in the family was safe from having a cascarone hit their head at just about any point of our Fiesta experience.

Cascarones can be bought anywhere Fiesta is being celebrated in Santa Barbara, but the largest concentration of people selling their handmade cascarones is along State Street where the tree-lined walkway from de la Guerra Plaza meets the sidewalk of State Street. There is no set price for cascarones, so plan to shop around a bit before buying. Some eggs are carefully painted to resemble cartoon characters while others are just spray-painted festive colors. Bring cash or even better, give kids a cash allowance for the day; smashing cascarones can be quite addictive.

Fiesta in Santa Barbara is indeed a tradition and celebration that should be enjoyed by the whole family. Viva la Fiesta!

It’s Time to Get Fiesta Ready Santa Barbara!

Old Spanish Days is here, so let’s get Fiesta ready!

fiestadressTo get started, here’s a PDF (left) detailing how to design and make Fiesta costumes. This costume guide, with original sketches and instructions by Paquita Del Rey, was first printed in 1949. The author did extensive traveling and research in her quest for authentic costume apparel.

Places to purchase Fiesta attire include; Victorian Vogue and The Costume Shoppe, Melys fashion, Cominichi’s and Jedlika’s.

If you want to dress up your home or business, Fiesta posters can be obtained at the Old Spanish Days office at Pershing Park, 129 Castillo Street, 962-8101.


EcoFacts: Cool II

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

In the 1920s movie theaters began to lure people in during the summer with images of icicles. In the 30s, trains, department stores and some offices got cooler, increasing business and productivity. Much later, large computer systems could not exist without cooling technology.  Growth of the south in the U.S. and other southern climes has happened because of air conditioning.

As always there’s a flip side to the benefits of air conditioning. There have been health issues and research is showing it may even be contributing to obesity. But the bigger hugeness is simply energy use. Temperatures rise, the chances of power outages increase, and then there is no relief whatsoever. And most of us have experienced buildings that are simply too chilly, over air conditioned. NY’s mayor just implored people to help avoid blackouts in the summer heat by setting their thermostats to 78 degrees.
ImageProxyMid day heat is peak energy use time, when the grid is most stressed. What if the work to cool us could happen at night?  Recently a very cool company relocated to Santa Barbara – Ice Energy systems. Energy is stored in ice. If it is made at night and used for cooling during the day…. pretty simple, eh? And so effective that Edison has teamed up with them.

Sadly, this ice could not be used in the summer.

Drought Tolerant‏

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

You would never know we are in a drought by looking at the Park memorial next to the Santa Barbara cemetery. All of these plants seem to be thriving on little to no irrigation.

Getting Ready for Fiesta at the Flag Factory

Next Wednesday is the official opening of Old Spanish Days and the Santa Barbara View caught up with a local company who helps make Fiesta festive… the Flag Factory.

fiesta1“We became the “official Fiesta Flag makers” in 1975, said Jonathan Alburger. “The former owner, Carl Adelhardt, who passed away in 2005, offered to HAND-PRINT the Old Spanish Days Fiesta Dancers on cotton fabric.  Old Spanish Days committee members were thrilled to have a local artist and flag-maker champion production of beautifully crafted Fiesta decor.  Carl personally worked on the artwork to create a more screen-friendly version of the now-famous dancers that was more graphic, less painterly.  The print ruby was traced and cut by hand. I remember how we at The Flag Factory would do small, hand-drawn runs of the dancers, then hand-paint in the floral rosettes and other accents.  Some years later we started to print the image on outdoor flag bunting nylon, which continues to this day.  The tradition continues: Fiesta Buntings and Spreads are all produced in our Carpinteria factory by hand to this day.”

Fiesta flags and decor are available to the public, as well as to all Fiesta-related corporate functions and events, CLICK HERE to check out all of their Fiesta gear. Jonathan told that the best sellers at Fiesta time “are the flags with the DANCERS, of course!” The Flag Factory also offers fans and flags with the Fiesta colors, along with more modern vinyl banners, plaques, signs, flagpoles, and hardware. So take a drive down to Carpinteria, 5095 Sixth Streetcall (805) 684-8111, or order online to get ready for Old Spanish Days. Viva la Fiesta!

31 Years Ago Today: Santa Barbara the Soap Opera Debuted on NBC

sbopera31 years ago today, the soap opera Santa Barbara originally aired. The day-time drama, which revolved around the fascinating and tumultuous life of the wealthy Capwell family of Santa Barbara, California, debuted on NBC on July 30, 1984, and last aired on January 15, 1993. Santa Barbara aired in over 40 countries, won 24 Daytime Emmy Awards, and was even watched by the Reagans in the White House.

Haggen Terminates Developmentally Disabled Employees

b5b560b2a3012ca61a56502deffb05f0Last week’s hot topic was the corporate takeover of Santa Barbara grocery storesA recent report by the Santa Barbara Independent really underscores the loss of small-town kindnesses and compassionate outreach that used to exist.

According to the disturbing report, “every Haggen store in the Santa Barbara area has terminated long-term developmentally disabled employees: one in Carpinteria, two in Five Points, four in the Mesa, one at Turnpike, and six at the Fairview location.”