Monday, June 18 , 2018, 12:11 pm | Fair 65º


Santa Barbara Historical Museum Celebrates Tradition with La Fiesta del Museo

More than 100 guests get in the spirit with a festive and elegant evening of fine cuisine, lively dancing and entertaining performances

The 69th Annual La Fiesta del Museo, deemed the most elegant of Santa Barbara’s pre-Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebrations, was held at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum last Saturday evening and embraced the spirit of “Viva La Familia.”

More than 100 guests embarked upon the historic landmark, as enchanting courtyards filled with vibrant color provided for a festive evening of fine cuisine, spectacular dancing and live entertainment.

Patrons arrived at the folds of dusk and were stylishly dressed for the occasion in Fiesta costumes or ranch attire, and soon a reception line formed outside the museum.

Standing inside the foyer, board president Marlene Miller, with her husband, Warren, and newly appointed Executive Director Douglas Diller, were all smiles, welcoming attendees, shaking hands and exchanging hugs and pleasantries, while cultivating the spirit of community and hospitality that embodies the heritage of Fiesta, a tradition upheld in Santa Barbara since 1924.

“La Fiesta del Museo is an old Santa Barbara event that has been around for many years, but the Santa Barbra Historical Museum was one of the first cultural centers in town to host this event and we’ve been honored to do so for over 30 years,” said Diller, who was appointed executive director as of July 1, and served as acting executive director following the untimely death of former Executive Director David Bisol on April 12.

“This event is a great opportunity for the museum to showcase our grounds and our unique collections and do it in an environment that is conducive to celebrating the Fiesta spirit that is such an important part of Santa Barbara,” Diller said.

Museum greeters handed out decorative complimentary fans and flowers to guests as they made their way into the adobe courtyard for a boutique-styled silent auction and mingled under the shade of oak trees. Meanwhile, wait staff swirled through the elated crowd, serving a delicious array of tapas and Fiesta-inspired cocktails, with open bars featuring wine and tequila tasting.

A ringing of a cowbell signaled the closing of the silent auction and the commencement of dinner and live auction in the museum courtyard that was beautifully decorated in a warm and inviting Spanish Colonial-style theme. Ropes of glowing lights draped across the courtyard, and tables laden in rich earthy colors meshed with rich reds, oranges and aqua fabrics coordinating with colorful candles and festive ceramic pottery that further enhanced the celebratory ambiance.

Diners settled down to a feast under the stars, enjoying wild arugula salad and savory grilled flat-iron steak prepared by Chef Jerry Phillips of SBB Gourmet Catering that was paired with glasses of syrah, chardonnay, or viognier from Melville Estate Wines.

Master of ceremonies and live auctioneer John Palminteri stirred up the crowd with jokes and playful jabs directed at bidders in audience, leaving everyone in stitches.

Live auction crowd-pleasers up for bid included a private tour of the Reagan Ranch, offered courtesy of the Young America’s Foundation, with entry for four lucky guests, lunch and transportation.

Another popular item for bid was the Soiree in the Sala, offering an after-hours tour of the museum’s art exhibits and dinner for 12 prepared by SBB Gourmet Catering in the museum’s exquisite gallery. This was followed by Fund-A-Need, benefiting the interior renovation of the SBHM abode in preparation for a permanent installation of the Edward Borein Gallery of Western American Art, scheduled to open next summer.

After the live auction, Miller officially announced the appointment of Diller as the museum’s new executive director.

Diller previously held several positions at the museum, including chief development director and assistant director, and under the direction of Bisol, the pair launched numerous museum exhibits and gallery renovations.

“David and I had a very close and professional and personal relationship for over a decade, and he was a great visionary for this museum and I learned quite a bit from him,” Diller said. “We started together in curatorial in 2001 for several years, and I worked with him to open up the ‘Story of Santa Barbara,’ our permanent gallery that was very successful for the museum.

“David will always be a part of the museum, and so certainly I’d like to capitalize on the successes that we had together and I’m excited to move forward with those. We will be launching our latest exhibit, tentatively titled ‘A Prolific Journey of Carl Oscar Borg,’ on Oct. 3.”

The evening heated up as “America’s No. 1 flamenco dancer,” Timo Nunez, clad in a snug-fitting black T-shirt and trousers with red piping, took command of the center stage and enthralled onlookers with an intense and passionate performance.

And hearty applause filled the courtyard when 2012 Spirit of Fiesta Sabrina Ibarra, 19, entered wearing a stunning floor-length canary yellow flamingo dress with white trim and wowed guests with a rousing performance of her own.

After the dance presentations, Ibarra shared with Noozhawk the joy of being propelled into the community spotlight since being named Spirit of Fiesta on April 14.

“I’m really honored to be the Spirit of Fiesta and to be able to represent Santa Barbara as the ambassador,” Ibarra said. “Especially dance-wise, because I’ve worked so hard for many years. It’s great.”

Ibarra studied dance at the Linda Vega Dance Studio, where she trained for 13 years and has been awarded several scholarships over the years from the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance to continue pursue her passion.

The gifted dancer, currently at Santa Barbara City College majoring in environmental studies, said she plans to attend a state college in Southern California in order to stay close to her family and hometown.

“I feel blessed to be dancing in such a beautiful venue filled with so much history and to be part of a tradition that has been a treasured part of the museum and the community for so many years,” she said.

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum offers special thanks to the generous sponsors of the 69th annual Fiesta event:

» Gran patron level: Bella Vista Designs, Eleanor van Cott, Ventura Party Rental and John Woodward

» Patron level: Frank Schipper Construction, Sally and David Martin, Melville Vineyards & Winery, Marlene and Warren Miller, Montecito Bank & Trust and SBB Gourmet Catering

» Caballero level: The Barkley Fund, Astrid and Lawrence Hammett, HUB International Insurance Services Inc., and Sheila Bourke McGinity and Frank McGinity

» Fiestero level: George Burtness, William Burtness, Oswald Da Ros, McMurray Stern Inc., Sheri and Jack Overall, and Robin Schutte

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >