Old Spanish Days events are riding into Santa Barbara this week for the 93rd year. Friday’s historical equestrian parade remains a favorite among locals and visitors alike.  (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days file photo)

From professional rodeo competitions to traditional flamenco dancers to mercados of food vendors, Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days festival​ promises fun-filled entertainment throughout the city this week.

The 93rd annual festival comes alive with an explosion of colorful confetti, live music and crowds lining Santa Barbara’s State Street for the iconic equestrian and children’s parades. 

Santa Barbara City Council members will get the Fiesta celebration rolling with an official proclamation at their 2 p.m. meeting in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St., and there are public events scheduled through Sunday including parades, free concerts and dancing, rodeo events, and more. 

The Fiesta Flower Girls, ages 6 to 17, will spread cheer to nursing homes residents starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Since the first Fiesta Flower Girls were presented in 1948, the group has been serving as the official Old Spanish Days ambassadors and representing Santa Barbara. 

Scroll down for a preview of this year’s Old Spanish Days events. 


Listen up, food lovers: this event is for you. Downtown Santa Barbara’s De la Guerra Plaza at 15 E. De la Guerra St. serves as the backdrop for an outside marketplace featuring local vendors and traditional Mexican dishes. De la Guerra Street will be closed between State and Anacapa streets. The space is filled with multiple vendor booths selling clothing items, flowers and crafts. The Mercado De La Guerra’s stage hosts live entertainment daily and booths will be open daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. 

On Upper State, Mercado Del Norte will take over 9 acres of MacKenzie Park. The site next to the Earl Warren Showgrounds is a favorite gathering spot for locals during Fiesta. The event includes food booths and carnival-style rides for all ages, and will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. The Crazy Horse Cantina, inside the Mercado Del Norte, features a beer garden and live entertainment, including a battle of the bands competition. 

Museum docents will lead tours of the Santa Barbara Mission through Sunday, at 2201 Laguna St.  

Free guided tours of the beautiful downtown Santa Barbara County Courthouse’s Moorish-Spanish building will take place daily on Wednesday through Saturday, starting every half hour at the Mural Room.  

La Fiesta Pequeña, the opening of the Old Spanish Days Fiesta at the Santa Barbara Mission, will dazzle spectators with a range of dance performance styles. Guests will be treated to a night of traditional song, costumed flamenco dancers, Mexican folklórico, an appearance from Saint Barbara and a special performance from the Spirit of Fiesta. The event starts at 8 p.m.


The Saint Barbara Parish invites people of all faiths to enjoy a free, High Mass at 10 a.m. at the Santa Barbara Mission Thursday morning. The Roman Catholic Mass dates back to the first day of Fiesta in 1936. The ceremony is followed by a reception at the  Mission’s outside sacred garden. 

Rodeo fans of all ages are welcome to watch professional bull riders risk it all against monstrous animal athletes. The Professional Bull Riders tour event starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real. 

If you enjoys margaritas, beer, wines, appetizers and live entertainment, you’ll want to check out the Celebración de Los Dignatarios at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Tickets for the 21-and-over event are $110 if purchased in advance and $125 at the door. 

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens will host more than 200 performers of all ages nightly at Las Noches de Ronda. The events start at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 


The 93rd annual historical equestrian parade — El Desfile Histórico — starts at noon Friday at the corner of Cabrillo Boulevard and Castillo Street, proceeding east on Cabrillo Boulevard to State Street and then up State Street to Sola Street. The popular parade includes more than 500 horses, and organizers remind spectators that they cannot reserve street-side seats before 5 p.m. Thursday. Santa Barbara police will suspend enforcement of nearby 75-minute and 90-minute parking spots from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. 

Flor y Canto will bring a rare opportunity to watch Spanish California dance and songs of the 19th century. Local residents in authentic costumes will perform musical numbers accompanied on replica acoustic instruments at 7 p.m. at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens. 

Friday’s Las Noches de Ronda festivities include the opportunity to buy a ticket and watch it from up close or above: A ticket will get you food, beverages, VIP on-stage seats or panoramic city views from the Clock Tower. Tickets for the 21-and-over event are available by calling the Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation at 805.770.7722. No tickets will be sold at the door. .

For rodeo fans, watch Junior Tri-Counties riders compete in breakaway roping, tie-down roping, team roping and barrel racing. The free event starts at 8 a.m. and noon at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association will host various events including bareback riding, tie down roping, steer stopping, mutton bustin’, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. Those events at the Earl Warren Showgrounds start at 7:30 p.m. 

Another popular Fiesta food destination, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado, will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Live entertainment and authentic Mexican cuisine will be featured at the courtyard of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 227 North Nopal St. 


Kids of all ages will transform State Street into a parade route during the El Desfile De Los Niños (the Children’s Parade), starting at 10 a.m. The parade proceeds south down State Street, from Victoria Street to Ortega Street. All cross streets along that route will be closed between Chapala and Anacapa streets during the parade. Street sweepers will immediately follow the parade at noon, and each block is expected to reopening once swept, according to the city. 

On Saturday and Sunday, arts and crafts displays will line Cabrillo Boulevard, just west of Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. The free art show begins 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. 

Talented dance performers under the age of sixteen will make a lasting impression on audience members at Tardes de Ronda at 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens.

Tri-Counties non-professional rodeo riders are set to compete in amateur steer stopping, team and tie-down roping at a free Saturday morning event at Earl Warren Showgrounds. The free event starts at 7 a.m.

That night, Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association riders will take over the showgrounds and entertain guests in a variety of tournaments including bareback riding, tie down roping, steer stopping, mutton bustin’, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. Box seats and general admission tickets for the 7:30 p.m. event are limited and available by calling 805.688.5093. 


The West Coast Symphony will perform a free concert conducted by Michael Shasberger, the orchestra and choir director for Westmont College in Santa Barbara, at 3:30 p.m. at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens. 

Sunday is a full schedule for rodeo fans, with a free event at 8 a.m. featuring riders competing in open and committee calf branding and team penning slack. 

The final rodeo performance of the Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo at Earl Warren Showgrounds is at 2 p.m. Sunday, with riders set to compete in bareback, tie down roping, steer stopping, mutton bustin’, saddle bronc riding, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. Box seats and general admission tickets are limited and available by calling 805.688.5093. 

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

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

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