Two brick buildings on the corner of Ortega and Garden streets in Santa Barbara are buzzing with artists working side-by-side on their magical creations.
The heart of the city's annual Summer Solstice Celebration parade originates at the Community Arts Workshop site.
Final touches are being made to floats as the parade quickly approaches, with festivities planned Friday through Sunday.
Costumes — made of recycled cloth, glitter, gems, plastic googly eyes and other materials — are a whimsical delight that captures this year’s theme “Celebrating Unity,” a topic reflected in handmade decorations throughout the parade.
One massive paper mâché float represents a Japanese maneki-neko, a cute paw-waving cat statue believed to bring good luck.
The nonprofit organization City at Peace Santa Barbara's float symbolizes spreading the message of love and peace worldwide. The float includes architectural landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Space Needle.
Starting in May, the downtown facility has given space to hundreds of artists, craftspeople, costume designers and mask makers who mentor individuals in the community art project.
“This is a hub of creativity and people are inspired by each other,” said artist Claudia Bratton, the former executive director of the Summer Solstice Celebration.
“There isn’t any other time of the year where there are so many artists working in one space and a variety of materials — those alone can be inspiring,” she said.
Patagonia donated fabric this year, Bratton said.
Costume designer Britt Nelson was cutting a bold pattern inside the building for a float representing the four elements — earth, wind, water and fire.
“This is a hands-on learning experience,” Nelson said. “We are empowering people to discover new skills.”
A slice of what gives the weekend celebration its unique identity is making the costumes and floats accessible to dance groups, community organizations and artists to explore the theme and do as they see fit.
“It’s magical to see people working in the workshop,” said Robby Robbins, an arist and Summer Solstice Celebration workshop operational director.
“Communities of diverse people are involved — architects, people living in their cars, or those involved in finances — but when we get to the workshop, we are all creating.”
Robbins noted to keep an eye out for the “pass the hat” float that collects money donations for the parade. Look for the large sun in a top hat and money collectors to make a contribution.
Opening ceremonies kick off 4 p.m. Friday in Alameda Park and include performances by the band Zephan and The Tribe, World Dance for Humanity and Soulstice Sol All-Star Band.
The 43rd Solstice Parade will march at noon Saturday through downtown Santa Barbara beginning at State and Cota streets and ending at Alameda Park, at Santa Barbara and Micheltorena streets.
Thousands of spectators are expected to line State Street to observe the parade.
For those seeking to ensure a premium parade viewing experience, VIP tickets can be purchased online by clicking here.
At Alameda Park, youth activities, live music, art exhibits and the beer garden are planned to continue Saturday until 8 p.m.
Some 60 food vendors and merchants are slated to be at the park during the weekend celebration.
The children's parade wraps up the festival at 2 p.m. Sunday. There will also be opportunities to listen to live rock, pop, jazz and country music performances, which end at 5 p.m.
More information about the Summer Solstice Celebration schedule can be viewed by clicking here.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.