Summer Solstice Parade flamingo floaties
With the theme of “Wonder,” 2019 Summer Solstice Celebration parade participants make their way along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. The popular parade was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic and won’t happen this June either, organizers said. The Summer Solstice Celebration is planning a mix of virtual and in-person events for 2021. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk file photo)

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic halted annual community events in their tracks.

Organizers were forced to explore virtual options, while some announced that beloved traditions had to be canceled altogether because of the pandemic.

A few of Santa Barbara’s iconic events won’t happen this year either, for the second year in a row.

Other big gatherings will be virtual again, while some organizers decided to postpone event dates in hopes of hosting in-person activities. 

Updated state guidelines mean more gatherings and private events are allowed now, including wedding receptions, conferences and live performances.

Larger events could be allowed later this summer, since Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced that the reopening tier system will end in mid-June if COVID-19 case rates stay low. 

Not all of the county’s large community event organizers know their plans for 2021 yet, but here is what is known so far.

» The Community Environmental Council’s Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival will be virtual and will be livestreaming events Thursday to Saturday. Kathi King, the festival’s director, said event organizers are unable to host anything public this year, in accordance with county public health guidelines. The three-day festival will feature conversations with climate leaders, musical performances, art contests, guest speakers and more. To view the free event, visit

» Earl Warren Showgrounds officials canceled the annual Santa Barbara Fair & Expo this year. The multiday event is usually held at the end of April in Santa Barbara.

Earl Warren Showgrounds won’t be throwing the Santa Barbara Fair & Expo

The Earl Warren Showgrounds won’t be throwing the Santa Barbara Fair & Expo this month, but may try to hold a smaller version of the event in June. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk file photo)

“We are hoping we’ll be able to host a smaller version of our usual fair in late June,” Rosie Miranda, event coordinator at the showgrounds, said in an email.

» The Lompoc Valley’s annual Spring Fest and Flower Festival won’t happen in 2021. The three-day Spring Fest typically has occurred in April while the much larger Flower Festival, including a parade and crowning of a queen, happens over five days in late June.

» UCSB Arts & Lectures has been hosting virtual events and will host a free screening of “We Are the Dream” at 8:30 p.m. June 3 at the West Wind Drive-In movie theater, 907 S. Kellogg Ave. in Goleta. Parking spaces will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The documentary is directed by Emmy winner Amy Schatz and executive produced by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali.

» The annual French Festival in Santa Barbara is canceling this year’s event. The long-running festival traditionally takes place in July at Oak Park.

“We actually start working on the festival a good six months in advance, and things are still too unpredictable to go forward this year,” said Terry Ball, executive director of Center Stage Theater. “The festival is very expensive to put on, and with no assurance that we will be able to have a large event or what the parameters would be, we just can’t risk it.” 

» The Santa Maria Fairpark is hosting the Strawberry Cruzin’ drive-through experience of the annual Strawberry Festival this year. The event will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 28 and 29, as well as from noon to 8 p.m. April 30 and May 1. Click here for more information.

» Santa Barbara’s annual Summer Solstice Celebration is hosting a combination of in-person and virtual activities throughout June. A traditional parade and festival in downtown Santa Barbara will not happen this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to event organizers. Click here for more information.

» The I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival is going virtual in 2021. The annual festival, benefiting the Children’s Creative Project, will run May 29-31 on the event’s website, Instagram and Facebook. Click here for more information.

“Our virtual festival with street paintings will be produced in artists’ driveways for our street painting sponsors,” said Kathy Koury, executive director of the Children’s Creative Project. “We are planning to offer two events for children, but the details are not yet confirmed.” 

Koury said the Chalk for Kids event will offer free chalk for drawings in their driveways at home. During the three-day festival, parents can bring their children to a location that remains to be determined and purchase a small square for $12. In addition, three featured artists will create a 12-foot-by-36-foot drawing for the major I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival sponsors.

» Santa Barbara’s annual Greek Festival in Oak Park has been canceled this summer, according to the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. The event will be held as a “Greek Grab Go” pop-up event during Memorial Day weekend. People will be able to pre-order homemade food items, including fasolakia, loukoumades, spanakopita and more. Details are slated to launch on the church’s website and social media.  

» The Santa Maria Fairpark will host a livestock virtual show and auction for the Santa Barbara County Fair. The online auction is slated for July 15-16. 

“As for the carnival portion of the fair, we are waiting to see what may be allowed to do in July for a carnival activity,” said Autumn Acquistapace, interim chief executive officer for the fairpark. Click here for more information.

Santa Maria Elks Rodeo

The annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo is planning to hold its parade and rodeo in September this year. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

» Details about Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days, slated for Aug. 4-8, are not available yet. Event organizers plan to provide confirmed information as soon as it does become available, spokeswoman Angelique Davis said.

» The annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo is planning to move many of its popular events to September this year, including the parade. The rodeo is planned for Sept. 2-5 at the Elks Unocal Event Center, 4040 Highway 101. The location is east of Highway 101 at Santa Maria Way.

» Traditionally held in Goleta every September, organizers with the 29th annual California Lemon Festival are deciding on plans for this year. The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce will make its final decision the first week in May, said Cortney Rintoul, chief development officer for the chamber.

Noozhawk also contacted organizers of the Carpinteria California Avocado Festival, Juneteenth Santa Barbara and the Fourth of July fireworks show at Goleta’s Girsh Park but did not hear back as of Wednesday.

Check back with Noozhawk for updates about community events planned, or canceled, for 2021. 

If you are hosting an upcoming community event open to the public, let us know your plans at Noozhawk will have a news report later this week about plans for performance venues in Santa Barbara County. 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.