For any local who has not attended Santa Barbara’s annual Summer Solstice Parade, the first experience is nothing short of surreal. It is possibly the only day of the year when suburban dads go bare-chested and blue-haired, where expecting mothers don fairy wings and blow bubbles, and bare midriffs and bikinis are the code of dress for young and old alike.
While the free-spirited revelry might have had something to do with the quantity of beer and fine spirits circling the crowd at Saturday’s 38th annual spectacle, it’s nonetheless a testament to the arts and the community that fosters such an atmosphere.
In other words, as one local put it, the Summer Solstice Celebration is a time to “embrace your weirdness and let your freak flag fly.”
Judging by this year’s Fantasy-themed floats, it is also a time for giving shape to the whims and fancies of creative hearts.
The procession started off at State and Cota streets with a lively game of leapfrog, performed by a tutu-clad crew that sailed by on rollerblades. An arc of balloons soon followed, giving way to increasingly dramatic presentations: a bicycle fitted with peacock wings, a throng of exotic birds, a towering dragon in a kaleidoscope of colors, a flowy-haired mermaid on a clamshell throne, and a confectionary castle crowned with a giant octopus.
“There’s so much imagination and hard work that goes into the parade,” said local teen Alison Mally. “The results are amazing.”
However, it wasn’t only participants who were involved in the Solstice masquerade. Plenty of local and tourist spectators took part as well.
Ashlyn Sanchez, who hails from Santa Clarita, heard about this year’s theme and immediately thought of a faun, which she fully realized in costume form: a brown furry bandeau top complete with matching pants and a pair of precarious heels.
“There are so many more people this year, and a lot more festivities,” said the Solstice veteran, “but it gets better every time.”
As the parade emptied into Alameda Park, the cheers of sidelong crowds proved the event was a magical experience for all, whether for their fifth solstice or their 25th.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, at least back in Florida,” said a tourist spectator. “There’s beautiful people, it’s cultural, and there are some great outfits. It’s about bringing the summer in.”
Scroll down the page for more Summer Solstice Parade coverage via Noozhawk’s Storify report.