Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 12:26 am | Fair 67º


Noozhawk Talks: Historical Groups Find Youthful Pro in Promoter Dacia Harwood

The event planner and marketing consultant divides her time between Goleta Valley Historical Society and Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Fresh off the success of Goleta’s third Fiesta Ranchera celebration and a week’s worth of schlepping her 6-year-old son to multiple Old Spanish Days Fiesta flamenco performances, Dacia Harwood, an event planner and marketing consultant for both the Goleta Valley Historical Society and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, took time out of her whirlwind of a life to sit down with Noozhawk’s Leslie Dinaberg to talk museums, motherhood and the importance of making time for happy hour with girlfriends.

Leslie Dinaberg: Can you explain your different jobs to me?

Dacia Harwood: I do events and marketing for the Goleta Valley Historical Society, which is the organization that manages and preserves Rancho La Patera and Stow House. My other part-time job is I work as a media consultant and event planner for the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. They are two separate organizations; I just happen to work for both.

LD: So you planned Fiesta Ranchera?

DH: Yes, I plan it along with a representative from Old Spanish Days, Rhonda Henderson, and then there was a small committee of people that helped us out.

LD: That was a great event. It was the first time I had been.

DH: It was the third year, and we had record turnout, which I can’t complain about.

LD: You do a really good job with these nice, successful events that feel a little lower key. I love going to the concerts. The music is great, but it somehow doesn’t feel like as much of a zoo as the Chase Palm Park concerts do.

DH: I definitely strategically advertise to keep the numbers at a reasonable level. We usually have 500 to 1,200 people there, which is obviously a lot smaller. But it’s a smaller venue. We have a lot of people walk in, which is amazing. Last week there was a huge pile of bikes so people had obviously come in from the neighborhood, and that was really great. I see tons of people that I know at the series.

LD: And it’s not tourists, which is nice. We love the tourists, but it’s nice to go to a local event in the summer.

DH: The Music at the Ranch series has been amazing. I would say that I feel like it’s one of my major accomplishments, making it happen, because I started it. This is our fourth year, and it started so tiny with just zero budget and four bands that were willing to help us out — it’s been amazing.

LD: How is that funded?

DH: We have corporate sponsors that we get support from to do the series. The lead sponsor is ATK Space Systems, and basically they are funding the bands and the advertising and the sound, but everybody is helping and there’s a lot of in-kind sponsorship that comes along with it.

LD: Are all the bands local?

DH: They are all local. I feel like it’s a local event, so there should be local talent. They are the ones who are willing to come out and support us by working for a low fee and having a great time, and I’ve never had a band that hasn’t said, “I would love to come back again. This was just really fun.”

LD: How did you end up as a historical specialist? Do you have a background in history?

DH: I’m definitely not a historical specialist. I was a history major at UCSB, which has nothing to do with the fact that I ended up working for two museums. I think that I went to work for the Goleta Valley Historical Society because I had a lot of interest in planning events, obviously, and in marketing a really interesting historic landmark that I felt like people needed to know more about. I really wanted to do it for that reason. It also worked because I had a really small child at the time, and it was a part-time position with a lot of flexibility.

I have very busy months of the year; this is obviously one of them. Summer is really crazy for us, planning the Fourth of July at the Ranch and Fiesta Ranchera and all of the things we do in summer, but that part was really interesting to me.

I ended up working for the Santa Barbara Historical Museum because David Bisol, the executive director, is on the advisory board of the Goleta Valley Historical Society. He and I became friends through his involvement there, and he paid me the best compliment that I’ve ever heard, which is: “You’ve been able to bring in this new demographic and really bring in a lot of fun into this organization, and you know, I want you to try to do the same thing down here.”

… So I went down there and I have been working down there for a little over a year, kind of rebranding, designing, planning events things like that.

LD: Your busy time is probably the not-busiest time for a lot of people.

DH: Let’s just say that I looked at the calendar the other day and said, “Oh my gosh, summer is almost over, and I haven’t done anything yet with my family.” But we are thinking about trying to escape next week and hide out somewhere for a little while.

LD: Did you know that you wanted to get into this kind of work when you were younger?

DH: I knew that I wanted to plan events; I didn’t know that it would turn into planning some of the community events that I’ve been able to do. … Honestly, I majored in history because it was just what sounded the most interesting at the time. When I graduated I was the regional manager for a retail chain and I traveled all over the place. Then a couple years before I had my son my husband said, “Enough. I want you to stay home.” And so I had my son and stayed home for a couple of years, and then I went back to work.

LD: How long have you lived in Santa Barbara?

DH: I’ve been in Santa Barbara for 17 years. I’m one of those people that’s not from here but still really loves it and actually maybe more so. … I graduated from UCSB, and a week later I eloped. … My husband was already working as a police officer at the time. He was seven years older.

LD: It’s kind of funny that the event planner eloped.

DH: Well, the event planner eloped, but I also planned a reception for when we returned. So I hilariously had invitations go into the mail the day that we got married. … We eloped to Maui, so I didn’t do the drive through to Vegas (laughs). It was very much an event, just a small one.

… I came here for school and never left. I really don’t see myself ever leaving, I love it here. I’m like the quintessential happy Santa Barbara girl where I just look around and I think wow, I’m so lucky.

LD: Are there any events going on that we should mention?

DH: The Goleta Valley Historical Society just opened the Cavalletto History and Education Center.

LD: That’s on the property?

DH: Yes, the walnut-packing shed has been transformed into a museum. The grand opening was Sunday, and then we’ve got one more concert on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

LD: That’s Spencer the Gardener?

DH: It is, and you’re coming (laughs). The historical museum is currently featuring “Lasting Impressions” by Colin Campbell Cooper, which is an exhibition with a world-class impressionist who ended his career in Santa Barbara.

… Then Clyde Aspevig is coming Oct. 24, and that will be really exciting. I think it’s the first time we’ve ever had a live artist. Generally because it’s a historical museum, we have someone of historical importance, but it’s great and his art has such a focus on the environment and on nature. I think it really fits with Santa Barbara and everything that we believe here.

LD: When you do exhibitions there, do you do something for the opening?

DH: We do an opening party, and they always sell out a couple of weeks in advance which is great — that’s a good problem to have — and there’s usually a short lecture and a cocktail reception so people can really enjoy it. We also do events during the exhibition. We participate in First Thursday, we host private cocktail parties, we have a lot of groups who come in for after-hours parties or after-hours tours. They will come in at 5 o’clock and have a glass of wine and enjoy a kind of behind-the-scenes tour of the exhibition, which is a nice option for people who can’t necessarily get into a museum during the week.

LD: And the Cavaletto Museum.

DH: At the Goleta Valley Historical Society, it is the history education center in honor of George and Dale Cavalletto, and it’s a museum about Goleta’s history and the history of Rancho La Patera, but it’s definitely focused on Goleta’s history. We have a really dedicated group of volunteers and staff who have been working on the museum. I’ve only gotten a couple of sneak peeks, but it looks amazing so far.

LD: Are there any defining characteristics that are different between the Goleta and Santa Barbara historical groups?

DH: I think that what is similar is that both organizations care a lot about Santa Barbara and the future of Santa Barbara and Goleta. Both of them have really dedicated volunteers and boards. I would say the primary difference is just that the Goleta Valley Historical Society is significantly smaller. We have a staff of four vs. a staff of 15 at the historical museum, which is pretty different.

… There are big differences in terms of budgets and staffing, but at the core of it what I see and where I find purpose is that there is always going to be a need to get the word out, particularly to the younger generation, about these resources that we have and about the history of the area.

So that’s actually one of the interesting challenges that I find is that historical societies generally attract a much older demographic, and I want to attract everybody.

LD: That’s great. It sounds like you’re working a lot. But when you’re not, what else do you like to do?

DH: Well, I like to spend time with my son and I like to travel. I actually like volunteering for other organizations. I often volunteer at other organizations’ fundraisers. I find it to be really worthwhile because I understand what they are going through because I organize a lot of volunteers, and so I learn something obviously from that, and I also have a lot of fun. So I like to do that and I’m generally obsessed with traveling. I would like to go everywhere, but I can’t.

LD: How does your son travel?

DH: Actually he travels really well. … We like to take him as much as we can. But we also like to get away without him. I’ll be the first to admit it (laughs). I love to go wine tasting and out with my girlfriends and do the usual get-away-from-it-all type of things.

LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

DH: Busy, enthusiastic and rarely bored.

Vital Stats: Dacia Harwood

Born: Nov. 20, 1974, in San Diego

Family: Husband Riley Harwood and son Jack, age 6

Civic Involvement: Postpartum Education for Parents, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Professional Accomplishments: “I would say that my greatest professional accomplishment has been to really expand the visibility of Rancho La Patera and Stow House through events and marketing to many demographics.”

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late by Ayun Halliday

Favorite Local Spot: “I like to go to Elements after work for happy hour, and I love to walk the bluffs at Sandpiper.”

Little-Known Fact: “I was in Taiwan (where my husband was born) on Sept. 11, 2001, and it gave me a new appreciation for how kind people can be when you’re abroad and when something really traumatic happens.”

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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