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Local News

Jean-Michel Cousteau Named Grand Marshal for Santa Barbara’s Historical Fiesta Parade

The environmentalist who created the Ocean Futures Society will lead the parade for this year's celebrations, which have the theme of "The Coastal Frontier"

Environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau, left, will be this year’s Grand Marshal for the Old Spanish Days Historical Parade, announced El Presidente JC Gordon, right.
Environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau, left, will be this year’s Grand Marshal for the Old Spanish Days Historical Parade, announced El Presidente JC Gordon, right.  (Fritz Olenberger photo)

A gloomy morning turned into a beautiful Tuesday afternoon as Jean-Michel Cousteau stood aboard the Double Dolphin and accepted his position as grand marshal for this year’s Historical Fiesta Parade.

The short cruise, put on by Fiesta El Presidente, JC Gordon, began in the Santa Barbara Harbor and ended just off Leadbetter Beach before the ship returned back to port.

On deck, Cousteau was honored while Old Spanish Days board members and guests mingled and enjoyed sandwiches as well as views of the beautiful Santa Barbara coastline.

The Old Spanish Days celebrations take place all over Santa Barbara from Aug. 3 to Aug. 7 and the Historical Parade — or El Desfile Histórico — is one of the biggest events, which features floats, wagons and hundreds of horses. 

As grand marshal, Cousteau will be at the very front of this massive celebration and lead the parade which will be held at noon Aug. 5.

Cousteau, who is best known for his ocean documentaries and marine conservation, is the creator of Ocean Futures Society — a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit that specializes in ocean protection and education programs.

This year's Fiesta theme is “The Coastal Frontier,” which provided inspiration for Cousteau’s involvement, the Old Spanish Days event poster and even the boat ride.

Ocean Futures Society creator Jean-Michel Cousteau, left, and Old Spanish Days El Presidente JC Gordon announce Cousteau’s involvement in this year’s celebrations. Click to view larger
Ocean Futures Society creator Jean-Michel Cousteau, left, and Old Spanish Days El Presidente JC Gordon announce Cousteau’s involvement in this year’s celebrations.  (Fritz Olenberger photo)

When Gordon announced Cousteau as this year’s grand marshal, the Double Dolphin was strategically navigated to be at the same location that is painted in this year’s poster.

“I’ve never been a part of Fiesta, but I’ve always watched it,” Cousteau said. “When I was approached to be a part of Fiesta, that was an honor for me. It was very emotional.”

Cousteau believes that it was his status as an “ocean guy,” which made him a prime candidate for this position. “I think they want to make the connection between the ocean and the culture,” he said. 

And after spending a few moments with Cousteau, it’s not hard to see why he was selected. Cousteau is infinitely passionate about the ocean as well as Santa Barbara culture and he fully understands the importance of this year’s theme.

“My role is going to attract people to focus on the historical side of the coastlines and to make sure that message has been shared,” Cousteau said. “I feel very privileged.”

Cousteau grew up in the South of France and has always loved the ocean. When he was 7 years old, his father — ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau — strapped a scuba diving tank onto Cousteau’s back and he hasn’t been able to stay away since.

Nowadays, the environmentalist has relocated to Santa Barbara because “the climate, the architecture and the temperature of the ocean is the same here,” he said.

“I feel that, other than the language, it’s as if I was at home, like when I grew up.” 

Click here for a full schedule of Old Spanish Days events.

Noozhawk intern Sarah Scarminach can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A group paddling a tomol, the traditional boat of the Chumash, could be seen from the Double Dolphin as part of the Old Spanish Days parade Grand Marshal announcement. Click to view larger
A group paddling a tomol, the traditional boat of the Chumash, could be seen from the Double Dolphin as part of the Old Spanish Days parade Grand Marshal announcement.  (Fritz Olenberger photo)

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