Santa Barbara’s 45th Summer Solstice Celebration paraded through downtown in 2019 in a colorful display of imagination.
Santa Barbara’s 45th Summer Solstice Celebration paraded through downtown in 2019 in a colorful display of imagination. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk file photo)

Another joyful, outdoor celebration in downtown Santa Barbara is transitioning to an online environment because of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Summer Solstice Celebration is going virtual, festival Executive Director Robin Elander said in a statement Thursday.

“While we are certainly heartbroken to make this announcement, we feel it’s in the best interest and welfare of our community,” Elander said.

The much-anticipated festival, which was slated for June 19-21, recognizes the longest day of the year and the start of summer.

The multiday gathering draws hundreds of thousands of spectators, and local residents spend months creating elaborate floats and eye-catching costumes. In previous years, festivities continued with booths, food, activities and live entertainment at Alameda Park.

Event organizers say they are committed to keeping the energetic spirit alive and thriving amid a public health emergency.

“We are in the process of planning a plethora of free and donation-based online classes and gatherings in May and June, and possibly beyond,” Elander said. “We invite the community to apply to join us in hosting these online offerings.”

Elander called for artists, performers, costumers, musicians, storytellers, dancers and imaginative minds “to share your creative solstice spirit with our community.” 

Switching online comes with potentially far-reaching audiences.

“These classes, gatherings and virtual concerts will open up many opportunities for artists, organizations and people from around the world and will offer solstice and our community new creative connections that we believe will enhance our parade, community and organization for many years to come,” Elander said.

The full schedule of activities will be released in the first week of May, according to Elander. 

Festival organizers didn’t provide a specific date. 

“We know you hold the solstice parade near and dear to your hearts,” Summer Solstice Celebration board member Stacie Bouffard said in a statement. “Our team is exploring alternative dates to host a parade later this year, in lieu of our Summer Solstice parade previously scheduled for June 20, should conditions allow. We will keep you posted.”

Solstice organizers also announced a partnership with UC Santa Barbara’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum to launch a new online showcase of the organization’s 45-year history started by Michael Gonzalez in the 1970s.

The Summer Solstice parade began as a birthday celebration for Gonzales, a local mime and artist.

“We can’t wait to see you at one of our online workshop gatherings,” festival Artistic Director Riccardo Morrison said in a news release. “We will make the best of this challenging situation, have some fun and make new connections in the process.”

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