Santa Barbara to Celebrate Its History With Old Spanish Days Fiesta

Release Date: August 1,2016

Week's events include musical and flamenco performances, historical equestrian parade, children's parade, rodeo competitions and mercados

Alexis Simentales, the 2016 Spirit of Fiesta, dances during the Old Spanish Days La Primavera event.
Alexis Simentales, the 2016 Spirit of Fiesta, dances during the Old Spanish Days La Primavera event.  (Fritz Olenberger / Old Spanish Days photo)

With the biggest annual event in Santa Barbara right around the corner, there are lots of reasons to get out of the house this week.

Downtown Santa Barbara will transform into a celebration of Spanish traditions with days of activities planned for the 92nd annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta.

Residents and visitors alike can celebrate the town’s heritage and traditions with live entertainment, homemade food and plenty of dancing.

Annual friendly family events include carnival rides at Mackenzie Park, the historic equestrian parade down State Street on Friday and nightly performances at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. 

Scroll down to view a complete guide of Fiesta events. 

Monday through Sunday

Fiesta at Paseo Nuevo!

Enjoy Santa Barbara’s Spanish heritage with a week filled with live Spanish music and flamenco dance performances at Paseo Nuevo Shops & Restaurants. More than 10 local entertainment groups are scheduled to perform in the Center Court area. Visit Paseo's website for performance times

Project Fiesta! Building a Complete History of Old Spanish Days 

Join members of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum for a free exhibition of restored costumes, historical photographs, vintage Fiesta posters and artifacts. “Project Fiesta! Building A Complete History of Old Spanish Days” is scheduled to run until Oct. 16. For hours of operation and more information, visit the museum's website


La Fiesta Pequeña 

Listen to traditional songs and watch entertainers from the best Spanish performers from miles around present dances from Californios, Flamenco, Spanish classical and Mexican folklorico at the Santa Barbara Mission. The event is the official opening festivity of Old Spanish Days Fiesta and will feature an appearance from Saint Barbara and a special performance from the 2016 Spirit of Fiesta. The free event is open the the public and scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

Wednesday through Sunday

Santa Barbara Mission Docent Tours

If you haven’t explored the historic Mission Santa Barbara, now’s the time. Special guided tours around the cultural landmark will be offered through Sunday evening. Ticket prices and tour times are available by calling 805.682.4713

Courthouse Fiesta Tours

Take a free, self-guided tour of the Spanish Colonial style downtown courthouse at 1100 Anacapa St. Since 1850, this location has been home of local government and a place of celebration.

The 150,000-square-foot site includes a jail wing, garden, painted murals and a clock tower observation deck with panoramic views of the city. Meet in the Mural Room at the County Courthouse between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., every half-hour Wednesday-Saturday and every hour on Sunday. For more information, call 805.962.6464.

El Mercado de la Guerra

De La Guerra Plaza will transform into a marketplace filled with art vendor booths, food and entertainment throughout the day and evening. Feast on Mexican-American and Spanish dishes downtown and shop for local art and souvenirs while listening to live music. The free five-day event runs 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

Wednesday through Saturday

El Mercado Del Norte

Mackenzie Park, at State Street and Las Positas Road, will transform into a lively carnival with a food court, live music, a dance floor and entertainment that will satisfy all ages. The event features carnival rides and attractions for kids and alcohol beverages for adults. From 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Crazy Horse Cantina will provide a beer garden for attendees 21 and over.

During the four-day event, the cantina will also host a battle of the bands competition with entertainment from local musicians. Wristbands for carnival rides are $25 on Wednesday and Thursday and $30 on Friday and Saturday. The park events are open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day Wednesday through Sunday.

Casa Cantina

Join members of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation at the 13th annual Casa Cantina in the courtyard of Casa de la Guerra. The 21-and-over event invites tourist and locals to relax, sip on cold drinks and celebrate the weekend with live entertainment. The celebration is held at Casa de la Guerra, 15 East De la Guerra St., and scheduled to begin at noon. For more information and ticket prices, call 805.965.0093.


DIGS! (Celebración de los Dignatarios)

Food, wine, tequila and the Santa Barbara Zoo — all the ingredients for a great Thursday night. Come hungry to this event because food from the finest eateries will be paired with a selection of wine and tequila.

After dinner, attendees can dance the night away to the sounds of DJ Hecktik. General admission tickets for the 21-and-over event are priced at $110. Check the Old Spanish Days site to purchase tickets.

Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Touring Pro Division 

Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo features some of the largest and most historic professional bull riding events in the United States. The Earl Warren Showgrounds Arena at 3400 Calle Real will host a rodeo where attendees can watch cowboys attempt to hold onto bulls for eight seconds. General admission tickets begin at $40. The live entertainment begins at 7:30 p.m. 

Thursday through Sunday

Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo (Competencia De Los Vaqueros) 

Experience historic riding and roping competitions that date back to the 1800s in California. Attendees will have the opportunity to watch horseback riders as they rope cattle around Earl Warren Showgrounds' Dome Arena.

This free event is based on open and committee calf branding. Starting at 8 a.m. and noon, junior Tri-County riders will compete in roping, team roping and barrel racing. The event is also scheduled at 8 a.m. an. Nonprofessional riders will take the arena on Saturday at 7 a.m., and Sunday at 8 a.m.

Thursday through Saturday

Las Noches de Ronda

Kick off the night with an evening of flamenco and Mexican folklórico dance performances. “Nights of Gaiety” will feature more than 200 performers nightly. The celebration is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Sunken Gardens of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse at 1100 Anacapa St. 

Friday through Sunday

Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado 

For those looking to satisfy their hunger with traditional Mexican cuisine, Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado located at 227 North Nopal St. will serve up authentic dishes. The free community event will also offer Spanish dance performances throughout the weekend.


El Desfile Histórico (Historical Parade)

Watch one of the largest equestrian parades in the Unites States that features more than 600 horses, antique carriages, wagons and coaches. A favorite event during the week-long celebration, the parade is expected to represent different cultural groups and time periods, including entries from local Native American groups, Spanish Pioneers, the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West along with local service clubs and organizations.

The parade up State Street starts at noon Friday on the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard, proceeds east along the beach to State Street, then north up State Street to Sola Street. Paid reserved seating for the parade is sold out

Flor y Canto

For one night only, spectators can view original Spanish California dances and listen to songs of the 19th century. Performed by locals in authentic costumes, the musical numbers are accompanied with acoustic instruments and narration. The event begins at 7 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens, 1100 Anacapa St

PRCA Rodeo Performance (Competencia De Los Vaqueros) 

Join the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association for an event filled with bareback riding, tie down roping, barrel racing and bull riding and more. The event is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Ticket prices start at $25 for general admission.

On Friday, the Santa Barbara Police Department will suspend enforcement of 75 and 90-minute curb parking from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the areas bounded by the following streets (including the perimeter streets): 

» Above the freeway: Valerio Street on the north, Bath Street on the west, and Laguna Street on the east.

» Below the freeway: Cabrillo Boulevard on the south, Castillo Street on the west, and Garden Street on the east.

This one-day accommodation does not apply to city parking lots. All other parking regulations will be enforced.


Kiwanis Fiesta Pancake Breakfast

Join members of the Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara, an organization that focuses on serving local students, for the annual pancake breakfast that benefits children in south Santa Barbara County. Held in Alameda Park, more than 4,000 guests are expected to be served starting at 7 a.m. Call 805.896.9083 for tickets.

Annual El Desfile De Los Niños (Children's Parade) 

The public is invited to celebrate the 86th Children’s Fiesta Parade that includes more than 2,500 children joined alongside their families. More the 40,000 spectators are expected the gather to view the free annual parade. The event begins at 10 a.m., proceeding down State Street from Victoria Street to Ortega Street

Tardes de Ronda

Young dance performers and music will fill the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens at “Afternoon of Gaiety.” Performances are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. The free event highlights children 16 and under.

PRCA Rodeo Performance (Competencia De Los Vaqueros)

Members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association will take center stage at the Earl Warren Showgrounds Saturday night. Riders will entertain guests with bareback riding, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. General admission tickets start at $25 for adults. 

Saturday and Sunday 

Fiesta Arts & Crafts Show

Browse local handmade art along Cabrillo Boulevard just west of Stearns Wharf. The beachfront area will be filled with vendor booths starting at 10 a.m.

West Coast Symphony 45th Annual Free Fiesta Concert

Pack a picnic and gather the family for an afternoon of music conducted by Christopher Story VI.  For 45 years, Story has been conducting the West Coast Symphony Orchestra event held at the historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens at 1100 Anacapa St. The musical performance is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.

Rodeo Performance Final Event

Each year rodeo riders gather to compete in events that are designed to test the skills and feature aspects of ranch life. Events include bareback tiding, tie-down toping, steer stopping, team penning and saddle bronco riding, plus team roping, barrel-racing and bull riding.

The event will provide entertainment for the crowd and plenty of challenges for the riders. Young cowboys and cowgirls will ride in the mutton bustin' Event on Sunday. Watch the young cowboys and cowgirls as they attempt to hang on to sheep for as long as possible around Earl Warren Showgrounds Dome Arena. General admission tickets start at $15. 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at

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