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Santa Barbara Bowl reopens with a full lineup after long COVID shut down

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara Bowl, a Central Coast iconic concert venue, is reopening with a line up of shows after a long COVID-19 pandemic break.

The season opens Saturday with Chelsea Handler, the former late night TV host, author and stand up comedian.

With the pandemic rules easing in June, there was hope of a free-spirited return to the bowl "like the old days", but that will be slow in happening. The variant impacts continue to have a grip on events small and large.

The set back in 2020 came just as the season was getting set to start. That means the last show was in 2019. Santa Barbara Bowl Executive Director Rick Boller said, "it was an interesting time to have to begin forecasting out two weeks at a time and thinking 'oh we will get back in a month' and then the fall and now here we are today."

The bowl is constantly updating its web page with information for guests who are planning to see the upcoming events.

It is described as "a fluid and ever-changing situation" on the web site.

"We excited to have the community return in the most safe way possible and that's our priority," said Boller.

All of the events are being held in line with public health rules. He says the bowl is not a "mega-event site" in that it is under 10,000 seats.

Guests going to the first show are being asked to bring a mask for hallways and restroom areas where they are required.

The unvaccinated should plan on wearing a mask to get in and Boller said, for now no paperwork or proof of either vaccinations or testing results will be required. But they want the audience to come with a cooperative spirit. "We are strongly encouraging those that have been vaccinated  to also wear masks.  Masks will be required in all indoor areas" He is also expecting people to have some spacing when they are in the food and beverage areas.

Hand sanitizer stations will be set up.

For the opening shows everybody who comes to the bowl will have a designate seat but down the road for some of the artists, the front seats will be removed and the fans will simply be standing in General Admission for their favorite music. 

For 2021 we have 21 performances booked of those five are comedy.   We will start of that first week with four comedy performances which provides a good environment to return to for the community," said Boller.

The bowl has been improved since the last show. That includes a new retaining wall built where there was a landslide in 2019. There are more solar panels on top of specific structures. The stage top to bottom got a paint job and has essentially a brand new look.

"This is one of the  most important center pieces of what we do. It allows us to bring the large scale productions to Santa Barbara that we are able to.  This grid holds 225,000 pounds and it is important to keep it maintained," Boller said. He pointed out that some of the shows now coming to Santa Barbara use the same extensive lighting and theatrical additions a guest would also see at a bigger show in, for example, Los Angeles. 

He says the performers have been on the sidelines but now, "the artists seem ready and excited to work  and get back on the road  and that bodes well for a very  diverse and full 2022 season as well."

For more information go to : The Santa Barbara Bowl.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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