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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 1:35 pm | Fair 36º


Santa Barbara Showcases Its History, Culture with Spirited Fiesta Parade

Thousands of spectators line downtown streets for the annual equestrian extravaganza

Thousands of spectators lined State Street and Cabrillo Boulevard in downtown Santa Barbara on Friday for the 2010 Old Spanish Days Fiesta Parade, known as “El Desfile Histórico,” of 800 horses and 1,800 participants.

The sun came out in time for the river of horses, carriages, marching bands and floats to make their way along the parade route. The annual event is one of the largest equestrian parades in the country.

“It went very smoothly to the best of my experience,” Fiesta El Presidente Michael Dominguez said as he entered the Horsemen’s Rendezvous at the Carriage and Western Art Museum after the parade. “It seemed like there were a lot of people in town.”

Dominguez followed Mayor Helene Schneider on horseback as she shouted “Viva la Fiesta, everyone!” into a microphone in front of Sambo’s Restaurant.

Other officials rode in carriages behind them, including Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, members of the Santa Barbara City Council, Sheriff Bill Brown and Air Force Col. Richard Boltz, a commander at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Several mounted units from law enforcement departments participated, coming from as far away as Kings, Marin and San Diego counties.

Volunteer parade marshals were out in force in black gaucho hats and red vests to keep the public off the street and away from sitting against light poles and palm trees. It was feared that if a horse is spooked and bolts that a small person, especially a small child, could get caught in the middle, according to volunteer Suzanna Savage-Raftican.

Savage-Raftican said she married into a family that keeps horses and got hooked on volunteering with Old Spanish Days in 2007.

“I give back because I am so lucky to live here,” she said. “I think it is important to celebrate the history of where you are from.”

Organizer Cas Stimson, vice presidente of mercados, helped train the marshals on how to react to safety problems and which emergency numbers to call, Savage-Raftican said.

“It’s a better a parade than it has ever been, safety wise,” she said.

Santa Barbara resident Tracy Stevens sat in front of Sambo’s with her children. Her husband, Bruce, a fourth-generation Santa Barbara resident, rode in the parade for the first time with his coworkers from Montecito Bank & Trust.

“My kids are here and they waved to their dad, so that’s exciting,” Stevens said.

The Stevenses are regularly out of town during Fiesta, she said, adding that “it’s chance we happened to be here.”

Stevens participated in a Fiesta tradition with friends and patrons of Sambo’s during the parade. The owner lays out a grid of 30 squares on a section of Cabrillo Boulevard. Each person put $5 for the squares into a pot. The person with the most horse manure on their square at the end of the parade takes the entire pot.

Sambo’s adopted the tradition in 2007 from Emilio’s Restaurant and Bar, which is down the street, owner Chad Stevens said.

“Overall it’s pretty busy,” he said of business on Friday. “It’s a great thing for Santa Barbara. Fiesta is somewhat of a Santa Barbara family tradition.”

Stevens’ grandfather opened the restaurant on Cabrillo Boulevard 50 years ago, and for the past 10 years Chad Stevens has brought his own children to the parade.

“It’s not all about partying; it’s about enjoying the various festivities,” he said.

Security was tight at the Horseman’s Rendevous, a complimentary party for all the parade participants at the Carriage Museum next to Pershing Park. Those not on the guest list, without a ticket or younger than age 21 didn’t get in.

Security personnel even asked Dominguez, dressed up his Old Spanish-style suit, for his ticket.

“I’m El Presidente,” Dominguez said. “I don’t have a ticket.”

Old Spanish Days staff quickly waved off the security guard to let Dominguez in.

Food and security were provided by the Santa Barbara Elks Lodge No. 613, and free meat was donated by Shalhoob’s restaurant, said Stephanie Petlow, vice presidente of celebrations.

“It’s our way of saying thank you for coming out,” she said.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne will be a junior at Chapman University in the fall. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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