Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara.
Dancers from Garcia Dance Studio smile and enjoy Friday's Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara. (Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo)

Thousands of people from all over converged along Cabrillo Boulevard in Santa Barbara on Friday for the 99th annual Fiesta Historical Parade, which featured traditional Spanish dancing and costumes, horses, and confetti from cascarones, or confetti eggs.

More than 60 organizations, elected officials and other groups participated in the parade, also known as El Desfile Histórico, which is often one of the most anticipated events during Old Spanish Days each year.

According to the Old Spanish Days website, the Fiesta Historical Parade is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades with more than 600 horses, some of them pulling antique carriages and coaches.

  • Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara.
  • Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara.
  • Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara.
  • Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara.
  • Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara.
  • Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara.
  • Fiesta Historical Parade in Santa Barbara.
  • Former Mayor Helene Schneider and other local officials ride in the Fiesta Parade.
  • A vintage carriage in the Fiesta Historical Parade.
  • The color guard in the Fiesta Historical Parade.
  • A float in the Fiesta Historical Parade.
  • Das Williams, Gregg Hart and other officials in the Fiesta Parade.
  • Members of the Chumash Tribe in the Fiesta Historical Parade.
  • Members of the La Boheme Dance company in the Fiesta Historical Parade.
  • Firefighters cool off the crowd during the Fiesta Historical Parade.

Parade spectators Elisa Carver and Ken Georgeson said they loved seeing all the horses.

“It surpassed any expectations,” Carver said. “It was amazing.”

Georgeson said he came from Fresno for Fiesta, while Carver was visiting Santa Barbara from Fort Worth, Texas, and the pair said they were excited to check out one of the mercados and flamenco performances later in the day.

This year’s Fiesta made history with David Bolton as its first openly gay El Presidente, and with 19-year-old Jack Harwood as the first male Spirit of Fiesta, both of whom appeared in Friday’s parade.

Groups such as La Boheme DanceOpera Santa Barbara, mariachi bands and the Santa Barbara Unified School District walked, danced and rode down the parade route, as well as many council members, Mayor Randy Rowse, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Laura Capps, Assemblyman Gregg Hart and many others.

Firefighters from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department entertained parade attendees with a large fire hose and buckets of confetti they threw over crowds.

Earlier in the day, a historical re-enactment of the Chumash greeting the San Salvador ship took place at Stearns Wharf before Friday’s festivities.

While the ceremony was originally planned to include a Chumash tomol greeting the full-size replica of the San Salvador ship to symbolize the event in 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into the port that is now San Diego, the Chumash tomol was instead featured in the Fiesta Historical Parade and people greeted the ship from the beach.

Old Spanish Days El Presidente David Bolton said he wanted to include everybody in this year’s Fiesta celebration, and he wanted to allow people to see historical events, while also giving them a chance to tell their stories.

The replica of the San Salvador, which is normally docked in San Diego, will be available for free public tours beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Other Fiesta happenings this weekend include El Mercado De La Guerra and El Mercado de la Playa — at De la Guerra Plaza and Santa Barbara City College’s La Playa Stadium parking lot, respectively — Las Noches de Ronda, or “Nights of Gaiety,” at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens; the Fiesta Arts and Crafts Show on Saturday and Sunday; the Children’s Parade at 10 a.m. Saturday along Cabrillo Boulevard, and more that can be found online here.