Fiesta is an important Santa Barbara tradition that has continued for over 75
years. The annual event provides an education of the history, customs, and
traditions of the American Indian, Spanish, Mexican, and early American
settlers that comprise the rich cultural heritage of Santa Barbara.
Fiesta is a unique forum for the cultural expression of our diversity.
Fiesta provides a vehicle for the non-profit and community service
groups to raise funds for local charities and social service
The event annually draws thousands of visitors from around the world. Fiesta performers come from around the nation and Mexico to participate. Celebrities of international renown who have participated or performed in Fiesta include Leo Carrillo, Will Rogers, Shirley Temple, Charles Lindberg, William Randolph Hearst, Don Wilson, Paul Whitman, and Delores Del Rio.
Opening Ceremonies - "Little Fiesta" is the official opening ceremony of Fiesta and takes place on the Steps of the Old Mission Santa Barbara. View pictures and web movies of opening ceremonies.
Fiesta Parade (El Desfile Historico) - The historical Fiesta parade running up State Street, also known as El Desfile Historico, begins on Friday at 12 noon and ends at 3 p.m. This event is unique to Santa Barbara and features floats depicting episodes from the history of the state and city.
The Children’s Parade - If you love creativity wrapped in innocence and charm, then El Desfile de Los Ninos, The Children’s Parade, is a must see! Wearing colorful Fiesta attire, ninas and charritos parade down State Street. With the children com home-crafted wagons &carts pulled by dogs, parents, and big brothers. Colorful streams of ribbons, flowers and balloons array the parade. The Children's parade starts Saturday morning.
Fiesta Dignatarios at the Santa Barbara Zoo - Held jointly with Old Spanish Days, this event honors Santa Barbara's elected officials. This event is held at the Santa Barbara Zoo and features live entertainment, dancing, mariachis, margaritas, and tempting food from local restaurants. View pictures and web movies of Fiesta Dignatarios.
El Mercado De La Guerra - El Mercado De La Guerra is located in De La Guerra Plaza in the center of Old Downtown between historic El Paseo and City Hall. This is the heart of Fiesta's traditional and contemporary music scene. This open-air marketplace offers a wide selection of Mexican & Spanish food delicacies.
El Mercado Del Norte - El Mercado Del Norte is located in Mackenzie Park at the corner of State Street and Las Positas Street in the San Roque area. This is the primary Fiesta destination for children's rides and also includes a variety of food booths, music, and stage entertainment.
Fiesta Finale - An elegant evening of professional music and dance. Featuring State Street Ballet, opera, Latin music, and Flamenco. Tickets benefit the John E. Profant Foundation's scholarship program. Free seating also available on the lawn for 8pm show.
History of Fiesta
Santa Barbarans have long been proud of their city's heritage from Spanish founders and from the Spanish, Mexican and North American pioneers who first settled here and built the city. The tradition of colorful music, dance and song, together with a spirit of friendliness, hospitality and tolerance are part of this heritage which the Fiesta "Old Spanish Days In Santa Barbara" seeks to preserve and perpetuate.
Old Spanish Days In Santa Barbara
In the year 1924, two circumstances motivated the first
Fiesta. In the first place, there had for some time been a
feeling among the business people of the city that Santa Barbara
should have an annual summer event to entertain and attract
visitors. The city had come to be a favorite place for winter
tourists, but these visitors had not been drawn here in any
considerable number during the summer months.
1924—The First Historical Parade
As mentioned previously, the original celebration was planned
to include a parade. The parade committee was headed by Dwight
Murphy, who had come to Santa Barbara County and purchased large
ranch holdings in the area of San Marcos Pass. He was by
avocation a fancier and breeder of Palomino horses and possessed
many of the finest of those animals.
La Fiesta Pequeña
Being that most important Fiestas in the Spanish and Mexican
tradition have always been closely connected with church
celebrations, it is only fitting that Santa Barbara's annual
Fiesta has included traditions with the historic Old Mission
Santa Barbara. With the gracious involvement of the Franciscan
Fathers, those traditions continue today.
La Misa Del Presidente
In 1936, which marked the sesquicentennial of the founding of the Mission, a Solemn High Mass was sung on the first day of Fiesta at the Mission. The public, of all faiths, was invited to attend in historic costume. Today, La Misa Del Presidente is held on the second day of Fiesta in the morning and continues to be open to people of all faiths. In recent years, the Franciscan Fathers have held a reception in the Mission Garden following the mass.
El Mercado as its known in Spain and Mexico, or "the
marketplace" in cities throughout the world, has been the center
of village and city life. The focus of gathering for the people
in Santa Barbara, however, had been the Presidio, as the town
had no mercado.
Noches De Ronda
Noches De Ronda "Nights of Gaity" was first organized in 1922
at the home of Leontine and Arthur Verhelle with the assistance
of William and Rosa Poole. Members of the community were invited
to the Verhelle home for an evening of music and dance
performances by the Poole-Verhelle Dance Group. This group had
previously been formed to preserve and perform the traditional
music and dance of California with many of the members having
performed in the dancing groups of La Primavera.
Old Spanish Days Fiesta
In 1926 the group of merchants who had formed the first
official "Old Spanish Days" committee and members of the parade
committee met under the leadership of Dwight Murphy and
established the present non-profit corporation of "Old Spanish
Days Fiesta, Inc." Murphy was elected president and thus became
the first "Presidente." After the creation of a board of
directors and an executive board, the group undertook plans for
Fiesta 1926, with the consensus of all the members that the
celebration should continue the plan of presenting California
traditions as exemplified in Santa Barbara's own history.