Spirit of Fiesta
The 2018 Spirit of Fiesta, Jesalyn Contreras-McCollum, leads the dancing at the annual La Recepción del Presidente on Sunday at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days photo)

Cascarones (confetti eggs), mercados, parades, authentic food, music, dancing and the rodeo are an essential part of Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta.

Traditions continue as the five-day celebration begins Wednesday, running through Sunday.

The theme for the 94th year of Fiesta is “Celebrate Traditions,” a choice selected by 2018 La Presidenta Denise Sanford.

All events included are free to attend, except for the main rodeo performances.

“Every summer since 1924, Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara —or Fiesta, as it is known in the area — spreads music, dancing and traditions of the rancho period across the city of Santa Barbara,” David Bolton, media chairman for Old Spanish Days, told Noozhawk in an email.

“Visitors and locals alike mingle in the warm ocean breeze and soothing summer sun at celebratory events throughout the city to appreciate the unique cultural heritage this community offers.”


» The Mercado de la Guerra, named for its location in De la Guerra Plaza, offers food, vendor booths selling clothes and other items. Visitors strolling the marketplace also can watch the performances at the stage located at the center of the plaza.

The first block of East De la Guerra Street is closed off between State and Anacapa streets in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. Mercado de la Guerra is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From noon to 12 a.m., there’s a nearby beer garden — Casa Cantina — for those thirsty for beer or margaritas.

» Festivities take place at El Mercado del Norte from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at MacKenzie Park, on Upper State Street at Las Positas Road. The marketplace includes food stands, the Fiesta Bazaar with souvenirs, carnival rides and the Crazy Horse Cantina for people over 21. Wristbands for the carnival are $25 on Wednesday and Thursday, and $30 on Friday and Saturday.

» The official opening of Old Spanish Days Fiesta — La Fiesta Pequeña, or “Little Fiesta” — kicks off at 8 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Mission. Thousands of people usually show up to watch dancers grace the steps of the Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St.

The event, a tradition since 1927, features traditional songs and dancing, including styles of Californios, Flamenco, classical Spanish and Mexican folklórico. Blankets, chairs or other items placed on the mission lawn to reserve seating for the gathering is not be allowed until 6 a.m. Wednesday, according to event organizers.


» The Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo opens Thursday at Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real. Riders compete in bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronco riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team penning. Mutton bustin’ is a crowd favorite.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo features Professional Bull Riding competition at 7 p.m. Thursday, with PRCA rodeos at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available from the Earl Warren Showgrounds box office, or click here to purchase tickets online.

A full schedule of daytime rodeo events are free and open to the public. Click here for a schedule of events.

» The Saint Barbara Parish invites people of all faiths to enjoy High Mass at 10 a.m. in the mission’s main sanctuary at 2201 Laguna St. La Misa del Presidente is held in honor of La Presidenta and the Old Spanish Days board members. The gathering celebrates both the long-standing relationship between the Mission and Old Spanish Days, as well as the community.

» The Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden, along the 100 block of East Anapamu Street in downtown Santa Barbara, will transform to a performance stage offering dances and songs from the flamenco to the Mexican folklórico dances. More than 200 performers are expected to take the stage Thursday to Saturday. Las Noches de Ronda begins at 8 p.m.


» The Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado marketplace is located in the courtyard of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 227 N. Nopal St. Food vendors serve up a wide array of authentic Mexican cuisine. Live entertainment and music takes place on the stage. The venue is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

» The 94th annual El Desfile Histórico (Historical Parade) in Santa Barbara begins at noon. The parade route travels from the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard to State Street, and up State Street to Sola Street. The celebration is known as one of the largest equestrian parades in the nation, featuring more than 600 horses, dancers, antique carriages, coaches, floats and wagons. Riders and horses are expected to entertain the large crowds.

» A rare opportunity to see the original Spanish California dances and songs of the 19th century takes place at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse Sunken Garden. The unique songs and dances are performed by local residents in authentic costumes.

» Paseo Nuevo celebrates Old Spanish Day with Flamenco dance performances and live music in the Center Court. Performances take place Friday through Sunday.


» The annual El Desfile De Los Niños (Children’s Parade) strolls through downtown Santa Barbara starting at 10 a.m. The parade travels down State Street, from Victoria to Ortega streets. The 88-year-old Old Spanish Days tradition is expected to draw thousands of participants, both children and families, sporting elaborate costumes. In previous years, the parade also showcased goats, ponies and dogs adding to the fun.

» Performers under the age of 16 dance during Tardes de Ronda at the Courthouse Sunken Garden from 1 to 5 p.m.


» Cabrillo Boulevard just west of Stearns Wharf will feature local artisans at the Fiesta Arts & Crafts Show. The displays are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

» The West Coast Symphony will hold its annual Fiesta concert at 3:30 p.m. at the Courthouse Sunken Garden. Music is conducted by Michael Shasberger, a Westmont College professor of music and worship who conducts the Westmont College Choir and Orchestra.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.