A sold-out crowd of 200 guests converged beneath the stars on a warm summer evening at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum last Saturday to celebrate the history and spirit of Fiesta at the 68th annual La Fiesta del Museo.
An intimate gathering of museum patrons, chair members, sponsors and Fiesta enthusiasts donned colorful and lavish Old Spanish Days-inspired attire as they entered through the main gallery and gathered within the museum’s romantic Spanish-style courtyard.
The courtyard, tastefully decorated by Santa Barbara Historical Museum media consultant Dacia Harwood, was a perfect tribute to the festive occasion. Tables were adorned with rich maroon and black tablecloths, and wrought iron candleholders with ruby globes complemented crimson wine glasses and gleaming silverware. Strings of white lights were festooned on the museum walls and draped across the courtyard to enhance the spirit of the evening.
A silent auction commenced the festivities as guests sipped cool cocktails and sampled an array of tapas while surveying more than 70 items up for bid in the lower-level Covarrubias courtyard. The abundance of items included a 2011 limited edition framed Fiesta poster, an engraved Wedgewood plate of the Santa Barbara Mission from the original drawing by Alex Harmer, circa 1900, and a one-night stay at the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa.
Late-afternoon sunshine filtered through the trees, casting a river of shadows around the courtyard coupled with a distinct ringing of a cowbell to signal the end of the silent auction and the beginning of the evening’s entertainment.
This year’s event included a change from the traditional lineup as guests settled down for dinner under the starlit courtyard and were greeted by Master of Ceremonies John Palminteri, who took center stage to address the crowd.
“Tonight we’re going to make you buy before you eat,” said Palminteri, whose infectious persona motivated the crowd to do just that with a series of jokes and one-liners during the live auction.
Some of the must-haves of the live auction included a private underground Vault Tour for 20 people at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum led by Executive Director David Bisol and Curator Dan Calderon, an eight-day culinary tour of Tuscany, a rare Reagan Ranch tour for four and — the last item up for bid — Fund-a-Need Covarrubias Adobe.
The audience erupted in hearty applause as Palminteri explained that the proceeds for the Covarrubias Adobe will help conserve the historic Casa Covarrubias, one of the oldest buildings in Santa Barbara and the museum’s future education center.
“This event and the museum are so important to the community of Santa Barbara,” Poett said. “So many people don’t know about our heritage or the history of Fiesta.”
Harwood said the museum has long been a repository for all Santa Barbara traditions and has the largest collection of original posters from Old Spanish Days Fiesta.
“A few years ago we actually created an exhibit based on the historic costumes and posters of Fiesta,” she said.
During the live auction, diners were served a meal by SBB Gourmet Catering that started with a heirloom tomato tomatillo arugula salad and grilled and braised short ribs with Arbrol chiles, mushrooms and dark beer, and topped off with an array of fine wines from Buttonwood Winery, Coghlan Vineyard, Fontes & Philips, Grassini Family Vineyards and Morello Wines.
While sampling dessert, guests were treated to performances by flamenco dancers Pamela Lourant and Timo Nuñez, and Marisa Leon-Haro, Spirit of Fiesta 2011, who wowed the crowd of onlookers.
The dance floor quickly filled up for these inspiration numbers as women clad in colorful lace shawls and frilly dresses embroidered with sparkling jewels and pearls joined gentlemen dressed in dark suits with elaborate stitching and gold ornaments to dance into the night.
A special evening in a magical setting made even the hombres sporting complementary fake mustaches look distinguished as they kicked up their heels to the tunes of Somos Son.
Santa Barbara Historical Museum and event sponsors include:
» Silver sponsor: Montecito Bank & Trust.
» Bronze sponsor: V3 Corporation.
» Gran Patrón sponsors: Astrid and Lawrence Hammett, Marlene and Warren Miller, and Eleanor Van Cott.
» Ranchero sponsors: Richard Croft, III, Ruth and Benjamin Hammett, HUB International Insurance Services, Sally and David Martin, and Jane Mueller.
» Caballero sponsors: William Burtness, Carol and William Gordon, Lorinda and Richard A.M. C. Johnson, Nancy and Bob Knight, Patricia and William MacKinnon, and McMurray Stern Inc.