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Solstice Parade Dances Through Downtown

Annual wild and crazy event marks 2009 summer solstice Sunday

The splash of Summer Solstice filled State Street on Saturday, with jubilant observers cheering nearly every float as the colorful parade coursed through downtown Santa Barbara.

“It was one of the most lively experiences I’ve ever had in my whole life,” said dancer Marisa Bourke. “It felt like we were sharing the activity with the fans.”

The annual Summer Solstice parade celebrates the longest day of the year, which falls on Sunday this year. The event features a variety of floats designed and built by hundreds of community volunteers, and regularly attracts more than 100,000 spectators from around the world. This year’s theme was “splash,” anything meant anything water related.

“The crowd was really great,” said “Octopus Garden” artist Isabella Kelly-Ramirez. She said her float had experienced some technical difficulties just before the parade began, but they were resolved in the nick of time. The float featured German-born opera singer Karin Kröger, who thought the parade was “a lot of fun.” When asked if she’d be back next year, Kröger jokingly said, “I guess, if Isabella invites me.”

Len Ramirez, an 82-year-old float enthusiast, worked on two floats: one a magic carpet, and the other a space capsule. Ramirez said he was pleased with the way his floats handled and how children reacted to them.

“Best of all is the interactions with all the children,” said King Neptune, also known as Heinz Trilck. The king was positioned in front of his sea castle, the Octopus Garden, and played the accordion up and down State Street. “All the interactions were receptive,” he said. “I loved it.”

“Pirates Pleasure,” a float with a red octopus popping out of an open treasure chest, suffered two breakdowns, finally halting at the intersection of Micheltorena and State streets. Designer Ann Chevrefils admitted the float was “a little too heavy,” and that one wheel had difficulties making the turns. “Solstice needs new wheels!” joked float artistic director Richard Morrison.

Parade goers were enthusiastic about the construction, color and creativity of the 2009 floats.

Among the parade fans was Alycia Anthony, who said “I liked the treasure chest with the tentacles coming out of it. I was with a group of toddlers and they loved all of it.’‘

Stefan Bienczak, 13, said his favorite Solstice float was the “one with the scuba (diver) flying above the water.”

“I liked the frog one the best,” said 8-year-old Lucas Forgy, visiting from Mountain View.

Peter Goldhammer said his preferred float was a bike with a large wheel in front. Goldhammar was impressed with the parade turnout and with the post-parade activities at Alameda Park.

“Fresh Fish” designer James Paul said the parade went off without a hitch. “This was a lot of fun, and the best one yet,” he said.

Alameda Park was transformed into two large areas, and both were filled with crowds. The first venue was for adults, the second for children. On the adult side was a variety of festival booths, food tents, a beer garden and performers entertaining on a stage. The children’s side had a big slide used both by kids and adults, along with an arts and crafts table, a jumper and a smaller stage with performers entertaining the kids.

Despite the large turnout at both parade and party in the park, Santa Barbara police Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte, a department spokesman, said he thought the Solstice event was running smoothly and without problems.

Click here for additional Kevin Steele photos of the Solstice Parade. Click here for Kevin Steele’s Summer Solstice Workshop slide show.

Click here for an additional Solstice Parade slide show from Noozhawk readers.

Click here for Robert Bernstein’s photos of the Solstice Parade experience.

Noozhawk intern Kenny Lindberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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