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Reimagine: Santa Barbara
A Noozhawk Partnership with Shared Mission Santa Barbara, KYET News Channel 3, Montecito Bank and Trust, SIMA, and Community West Bank
Reimagine: Santa Barbara

State Street a Centerpiece for Parades, Festivals, Farmers Markets and Special Events

Santa Barbara’s main street a hub for community activities that draw locals and tourists alike

 

[Noozhawk’s note: Part of a series called Reimagine: Santa Barbara, a Noozhawk special report produced in partnership with Shared Mission Santa Barbara and KEYT News. Over the next several weeks, the series will trace the founding and evolution of downtown Santa Barbara, dive into the challenges we’re confronting today, explore the exciting opportunities in front of us, and take a look at what’s happening with downtowns in other communities. Throughout the series, we’ll be asking you to help us identify priorities and form a vision for State Street’s future.]

It’s no secret Santa Barbara residents like to celebrate, and downtown State Street is the venue of choice for many local events.

Whether it’s the beginning of summer, the art of film or remembrance of our Spanish heritage, thousands of locals and visitors fill the streets to experience special events in Santa Barbara.

| Reimagine: Santa Barbara | Complete Series Index |

Annual celebrations are woven tightly into the city’s cultural identity, said Rhonda Henderson, 2017 la presidenta of one of them, Old Spanish Days Fiesta.

“During Fiesta, and a lot of other festivals, there is no larger opening of our city — not just for visitors but also residents,” she told Noozhawk. “The festivals provide an amazing opportunity for all to come out and celebrate.”

The week-long Fiesta commemorates the rancho period, from 1830 to 1865, and this year marked the 93rd year of El Desfile Histórico, the historical horse parade that is a highlight of Old Spanish Days and one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades.

Fiesta provides an opportune time to bond with family and friends, and part of the excitement of living in Santa Barbara is joining in the celebration of local traditions.

Santa Barbara’s customs are a product of its background, Henderson said.

“Keeping the traditions alive and the city’s history is part of our founding mission,” she said. “For people to come to the mercados and to witness the parades, traditional songs, dance, music and food — they get to see it up close and personal.”

Henderson said the great thing about the celebration is it’s not exclusive — everyone is invited, and everyone can have fun for free.

2017 Fiesta La Presidenta Rhonda Henderson waves to the crowd during El Desfile Histórico. “During Fiesta, and a lot of other festivals, there is no larger opening of our city — not just for visitors but also residents,” she says. Click to view larger
2017 Fiesta La Presidenta Rhonda Henderson waves to the crowd during El Desfile Histórico. “During Fiesta, and a lot of other festivals, there is no larger opening of our city — not just for visitors but also residents,” she says. (Fritz Olenberger file photo)

“The festivals continue to share the charm of Santa Barbara,” Henderson said. “It gives a chance to highlight what we love about our city.”

Santa Barbara’s signature events bring people to the downtown core, and its beaches and parks serve as the meeting place for more than 90 gatherings annually, according to the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department.

When the Summer Solstice Celebration takes over State Street, thousands of spectators and participants turn out for the annual parade featuring the loud sounds of drums, dancing in the streets and vibrantly costumed parade-goers.

The community event begins at the Community Arts Workshop at 631 Garden St., where the creative artists and costume designers put the final touches to human-powered floats before the parade heads up State Street to Alameda Park.

The Downtown Santa Barbara-sponsored annual nighttime Holiday Parade on State Street showcases a tree lighting ceremony near the Arlington Theatre and floats decked out in lights. Downtown parades are also put on for the Fourth of July and Veterans Day.

Besides the larger community events, downtown Santa Barbara welcomes locals and visitors for frequent events that feature arts, culture and local businesses.

Set against the backdrop of downtown businesses and stores on State Street, the weekly Santa Barbara farmers market offers locally sourced food and attracts crowds to browse the booths of vendors and growers.

The Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration parade theme for 2017 was “Celebrating Unity.” Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration parade theme for 2017 was “Celebrating Unity.” (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk file photo)

The downtown farmers market has been attracting visitors for 34 years, said Sam Edelman, general manager of the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association. The nonprofit association includes 130 grower members.

Tuesday evening’s market stretches along State Street for two blocks between Ortega and Haley streets, and Saturday’s downtown market is set up in a parking lot at Cota and Santa Barbara streets.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, meats, plants and flowers are sold.

“We are a destination to come and to support our local agricultural producers,” Edelman said. “It’s a great meeting place. State Street comes alive.”

On the first Thursday of every month, Downtown Santa Barbara’s 1st Thursday program features artist lectures, receptions and gallery openings, live music and wine tastings. The next event is scheduled for Nov. 2.

About This Series

Noozhawk’s Reimagine: Santa Barbara project is exploring the challenges and opportunities in downtown today, and will be working with you, our readers, to identify priorities and form a vision for State Street’s future.

Locals buy fruits and vegetables during the weekly Santa Barbara Farmers Market, held every Tuesday on State Street between Haley and Ortega streets. Click to view larger
Locals buy fruits and vegetables during the weekly Santa Barbara Farmers Market, held every Tuesday on State Street between Haley and Ortega streets. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

It’s not just about shopping or dining, but finding out what locals want for the next generation of State Street and the downtown experience.

Should the city incentivize more housing projects in the downtown core, or get into the development business itself? Should business organizations work with property owners to curate more locally owned stores?

How can stakeholders work together to come up with innovative solutions for large properties like Macy’s in Paseo Nuevo and Saks OFF 5TH, which is vacating its store on State and Carrillo streets when its lease is up in the spring?

Have an idea? Have questions? Join the conversation in our reader-engagement platform, Noozhawk Asks.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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.

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