More than 600 horses walked along Cabrillo Boulevard and State Street as part of Friday’s Old Spanish Days Historical Parade.  (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days photo)

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The Old Spanish Days Fiesta Celebration has returned to Santa Barbara, flooding downtown with vibrant colors, music, dancing, and confetti as Santa Barbara celebrates its Spanish heritage.

Friday’s El Desfil Histórico, the Historical Parade, marked the 91st anniversary of the parade.

Spectators, with blankets and chairs in hand, arrived well before the noon start time to secure a good spot on either side of State Street and the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard, where the horses, dancers and floats lined up.  

The morning was cloudy, but blue skies appeared as soon as the parade began.

Unique to Santa Barbara, the parade is one of the largest equestrian parades in the nation, featuring over 600 horses, beautiful antique carriages, wagons, and coaches.

Expert riders dressed in colorful costumes seemed to make their horses “dance” in time to the lively mariachi music.

The parade was led by the young Fiesta Flower Girls, who shouted, “Viva la Fiesta!” and threw flowers into the crowd. Graceful flamenco dancers and mariachi bands followed.

Featured at the beginning of the parade were historical floats that told tales of California and Santa Barbara history.

The Spirit of Fiesta and dancers start off the parade Friday. (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days photo)

This year, the Rotary Clubs of the Santa Barbara area float, a replica of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and Sunken Gardens, hosted a wedding.

The bride and groom, Lindsay Muse and James Reichlen, were heard saying their vows and seen having their first dance as the flower-covered float made its way through town.

Mounted police groups from all over Southern California and high school marching bands from across the Tri-Counties delighted parade attendees, who were dressed festively in Fiesta styles and waved at the parade participants.

Santa Barbara County firefighters were at the end of the parade, drawing loud cheers and throwing confetti into the crowd. 

Fiesta celebrations will continue through Sunday and a full schedule of events can be found here. 

Noozhawk contributing writer Serena Doubleday can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Bride and groom Lindsay Muse and James Reichlen got married on the Rotary Club float during Friday’s parade. (Ken Pfeiffer photo)