[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the luncheon.]

The Winter White Ball fundraiser for 2013’s Summer Solstice festivities was a fun-filled extravaganza for more than 150 supporters and party-goers. The event, held at the Butler Event Center, celebrated past parades and acquaintances, and generated enthusiasm for next year.

According to Summer Solstice executive director Claudia Bratton, the fundraiser is timed for winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, to bring people together during a different season. She told Noozhawk that it’s special because “we have fun besides raising funds.”

“The funds go to put on the free, wonderful celebration of solstice that we put on for the city,” she said. “It includes our community arts workshop for the two months before the parade, where we have a staff of paid artists who help people build floats, and learn how to make costumes, masks and all of those kinds of wonderful celebration arts.”

“Creatures” will be the theme for 2013. For many die-hard and devoted solstice fans, the Winter White Ball celebration was merely a hint of the summer party and parade that are expected to draw more than 100,000 spectators from around the world.

And the popular local event continues as strong as ever because “It’s the heart of creativity,” said Bratton. “That’s it; it’s the heart of creativity. We like themes that are all-encompassing. It could be creatures from space, it could be creatures from the sea. It’s a very broad theme but it lays out all sorts of ideas to many people.”

The 2013 Summer Solstice Celebration will open June 21 and run through June 23, with the highly anticipated Solstice parade scheduled for Saturday, June 22.

The invitation for the Winter White Ball called for all-white attire, and many of those in attendance were right in the spirit as the Butler Event Center quickly filled with artists, musicians and poets creatively showcasing the imagination necessary to enliven the dress code. Guests arrived wearing white and other elaborate costumes that were a prelude to the coming summer fun.

“We all see each other during the summer and then we kind of go away for a year and it’s nice to see everyone here tonight,” said Robby Robbins, the Summer Solstice board treasurer and an artist who makes giant puppets. “There’s artists all over this place. People who have been in the parade and created stuff and supported us, and some of our financial supporters are here. It’s great to get everyone together.”

During the festivities, guests considered an assortment of silent auction items donated by community members and gathered in small groups at the bar, lounging on bar stools and at tables.

And, in the rear of the room, concealed behind sheer curtains, tarot and astrology consultants were busy telling fortunes to guests for a donation toward the Solstice cause. Meanwhile, Joan Melendez painted guests’ faces, as she has for 38 years while also making costumes and enjoying the spirit of diversity that the solstice celebrations bring out in the community.

“Every year it’s different and that’s what makes it beautiful,” said Melendez. “New people and it’s green. We’re the green parade. No motors at all, its all push-and-pull since 1974. It’s all push-and-pull and recycle. We’ve been recycling for the whole time.”

A buffet table filled with platters of fresh pasta dishes, cheese, grapes and crackers was prepared to appease even the most-finicky pallets.

Later, a dance floor complete with spinning disco ball was packed with swaying bodies to the sounds of the eight-piece band, Area 51, playing funk, soul and R&B classics, accompanied by special guest DJ Steven J.

Summer Solstice is a nonprofit corporation that produces the Solstice Parade, the Solstice Festival and the Solstice Community Arts Workshop from donations and sponsorships. Established in 1974, the Summer Solstice parade began as a birthday party for Michael Gonzales, a popular local artist. Since then, the festival and parade have flourished.

Known for its magical spectacle of pageantry, the parade features people-powered floats, flamboyant costumes, street performers, musicians and carnival-like dance troops, and is often compared to the extravagant and much larger Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Click here to make an online donation or for information on volunteering, or contact the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration office at 805.965.3396.

“We’re always looking for volunteers, especially the day of the parade,” said Michelle Nassif, who served as registrar from 1995 to 2000. “We need many people just to keep the parade flowing. And there’s many things they can do. Students come, and parents with their children, and they get taught many different things on putting together a whole parade. It’s really beautiful because all ages are involved.”

Artists are encouraged to share artwork for the annual T-shirt and poster design competition, with submittals due Jan. 25. A reception will follow on Feb. 7 and work will be on display for three weeks following at Sojourner Café. Entries must be ready to hang and be no bigger than 30 inches by 40 inches and no heavier than 30 pounds. Click here for more information, or to download an application.

» Solstice thanks the gracious sponsors of the Winter White Ball: Pascucci, Aldo’s, Andersen’s Danish Bakery, Fresco Cafe, Allied Beverages, Tri-County Produce and Trader Joe’s.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.