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Project Fiesta brings together the vintage history of Old Spanish Days for 2021 celebration

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The COVID crisis has reduced Santa Barbara's biggest event of the year to a limited version this year, but it provided a chance to view the history of Old Spanish Days.

The history of Fiesta is presented at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

The latest installation is called “Project Fiesta: A History of Old Spanish Days.”

It includes a look at the origins of Fiesta and the pageantry, fashion and traditions of the citywide festival. There are restored costumes, posters, artwork, artifacts, historical photos and two walls of videos.

The museum says, in 1924, Mayor Charles M. Andrea declared Fiesta week “one of festival and gaiety, during which period, which shall be known as ‘Old Spanish Days,’ the spirit of old Santa Barbara shall be lived again and again and the new Santa Barbara shall give way to the traditions of the city’s founders.” It is considered a time of homecoming for former residents and one of hospitality for guests.

Earlier this week, during a reception, Fiesta dancers put on a performance in the historic courtyard. It included individual performances from The Spirit of Fiesta, Ysabella Yturralde and the Junior Spirit of Fiesta, Savannah Hoover.

"People get really excited to feel like they are at the parade," said the museum's Dacia Harwood.
"We just really  wanted people to feel like they had been here for the parade in the 1920's, 1930's , 1940's  and beyond."

With COVID restrictions, the famous parade will not take place this year.  It annually draws 75,000 to 100,000 people and is the largest event  in Santa Barbara.

The display at the museum recreates some of the emotion that comes with the parade. "Feel the movement, feel a little bit of the occasional  chaos when you are sitting on the curb watching the parade so that was the feeling we were   going for," said Harwood.

Some of the elements of the display were from the museum's collection and some came from the public. "We continue to collect film, people's home movies, old KEYT footage from various collectors and to really focus on the movement and feeling of the parade."

There's also examples of the carriages and outfits you would have seen in modern times or back in the early days.     A close up look at some of the designs and materials showcases the craftsmanship and handmade qualities that, in many cases, goes back decades.

Harwood said, "many of the dignitaries that were here and organized the parade in the 20's, 30's, and  40's   but more importantly  we have some of the costumes.

A slide show rotates modern shots from Photographer Fritz Olenberger with  the archives "We then went to our collections of photos at the Gledhill library and paired them with similar images from the parade since 1924," said Harwood.

Adjacent to Project Fiesta is a Queen on the Hill exhibit, featuring art created around the landmark Old Mission..

The museum is located at 136 East De la Guerra Sreet in downtown. For more information go to Project Fiesta!

Education / Lifestyle / Santa Barbara - South County / Video
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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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