The first thing that came to Larry Crandell’s mind when the 90-year-old was handed a microphone Thursday afternoon was a question.
“Are there any single ladies in here?” Crandell said, immediately enveloping the dining hall of the Carrillo Recreation Center in laughter.
The longtime Santa Barbaran looked out over a crowd of more than 200 during the annual birthday party for Santa Barbara residents 90 years or older.
He spotted a raised hand.
“Will you marry me?” Crandell said, smiling and sending his fellow seniors into another chuckling fit.
So the jokes went Thursday as Crandell played to his audience during the 24th 90+ Birthday Party, hosted by the City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department and sponsored by HUB International, the PARC Foundation and a host of others.
Crandell has long emceed and helped organize the event, although this year he was able to join the exclusive club by turning 90 — a reason he was recognized Thursday as a special honoree.
Crandell and about 100 others from what organizers were calling the “greatest generation” gathered for a collective birthday party, complete with free lunch, birthday cake, live music and even some sing-alongs.
Thursday’s soiree was the largest one the city has thrown since at least 2007, when the event was temporarily put on hiatus because of budget constraints.
“This population is exploding,” said Jason Bryan, senior recreation adviser. “It is encouraging. It’s great to bring people of this exceptional experience together. You have to keep engaged in the community.”
Crandell set out to discover how old everyone was by asking certain ages to raise their hands or stand.
“We have something in common,” he said to a 96-year-old man who couldn’t quite understand his questions. “I can’t hear either.”
Crandell publicly interviewed different members of the “90+ Club,” sitting down first with Crispina Briones Irabon, a longtime Santa Barbara resident who actually turned 97 on Thursday.
Two of Briones Irabon’s five children accompanied her to the party, describing their mother as a former teacher who leaned on her faith for support and never sweat the small stuff.
Between jokes, Crandell asked seniors to share the secrets to their longevity.
“Eat and sleep on time,” Briones Irabon said.
Other old-timers said genes had something to do with aging, as well as people's habits.
“Scotch and water at 4 o’clock,” a 92-year-old man offered.
No matter the secret, Crandell happily said he hoped to see everyone back and healthy again next year.