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Santa Barbara Showcases History and Culture with Fiesta Parade

Tens of thousands of people head to State Street to watch the parade, an Old Spanish Days highlight that includes about 600 horses

Spirit of Fiesta Alexis Simentales and dancers lead off Friday’s parade in Santa Barbara.
Spirit of Fiesta Alexis Simentales and dancers lead off Friday’s parade in Santa Barbara.  (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days photo)

Thousands of Santa Barbarans — and many, many out-of-towners — lined Cabrillo Boulevard and State Street Friday afternoon for the Fiesta Historical Parade, the most iconic Fiesta activity in the city’s Old Spanish Days festival.

Floats depicting local history, a cavalcade of wagons, carriages and coaches, and about 600 horses marched in the 92nd anniversary of El Desfile Histórico.

Even though the greater Santa Barbara area has significantly evolved since its Spanish beginnings, the parade remains a link to the past.

John Lenter said that Fiesta’s cornerstone event hasn’t really changed in the 50 years he’s been attending.

“It’s one thing you can always depend on — the Fiesta parade’s going to have a lot of horses, a lot of high school bands and pretty dresses,” he said. “It’s fun to do on a Friday afternoon.”

A colorful sea of confetti obscured sidewalks that had been staked out by spectators hours before the noon start time.

Almost 600 horses walked up State Street during Friday’s parade in Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Almost 600 horses walked up State Street during Friday’s parade in Santa Barbara.  (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days photo)

Konrad Ancheta, who has family visiting from San Francisco, told Noozhawk he included the parade as part of their visit because it showcases Santa Barbara culture.

The parade featured historical reenactments by service clubs and local descendants of pioneers and Native Americans, as well as an ensemble cast of local officials, including city council members, county supervisors, state representatives and Congresswoman Lois Capps.

Local marching bands and mariachi groups gave the procession an acoustic dimension amid the ubiquitous cheers of “Viva la Fiesta!”

Though Fiesta is generally a local celebration of the area’s history and culture, the sidewalks hosted more than their fair share of out-of-town spectators.

“We live in San Luis Obispo, and we’re down here for our 10th anniversary,” said Sarah Easton. “It was just sort of a coincidence, but I’ve always heard about (Fiesta), and it’s awesome.”

“We live locally, so we always see it on Channel 3,” her husband Dan McNeil said. “I went to school here, so I thought it was about time we saw it.”

The parade kicked off at the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard, took a left onto State Street by Stearns Wharf and marched up to Sola Street.

Parade Grand Marshal Jean-Michel Cousteau waves to the crowd during Santa Barbara’s historical parade Friday afternoon. Click to view larger
Parade Grand Marshal Jean-Michel Cousteau waves to the crowd during Santa Barbara’s historical parade Friday afternoon. (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days photo)

Pop-up eateries at mercados and plenty of live music and entertainment throughout Fiesta week have accompanied the parade.

“We’re on holiday from the United Kingdom, and we’re traveling down from San Francisco to San Diego, and this was one of our planned stops,” said Laura Holl.

“But we didn’t know that a Fiesta was on, but we’re very pleased that it is because it’s lovely.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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.

Junior Spirit of Fiesta Sarah Naretto and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider share a carriage during Friday’s parade. Click to view larger
Junior Spirit of Fiesta Sarah Naretto and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider share a carriage during Friday’s parade.  (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days photo)
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