As the hundredth anniversary of Old Spanish Days approaches, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum celebrates the festive annual celebration with 99 photographs spanning 99 years in the exhibit “Project Fiesta: 99 Years.” The exhibit is on view through November 12, 2024.
Drawn from the Museum’s Gledhill Library Archive, the photographs capture the spirit of the celebration, which began in 1924 to celebrate the reopening of the Lobero Theatre, and the pageantry and spirit of the event as it grew over the years. Local landmarks are recognizable: parades down State Street, fireworks over the Old Mission, rodeos at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, pageants at the Santa Barbara Bowl, revelry at El Paseo Restaurant, mercados at Casa de la Guerra, intimate events at Casa Covarrubias (now the Historical Museum’s location), and spot-lit dancers in swirling gowns on stage at both De la Guerra Plaza and the County Courthouse.
Appearing in the images are flower girls, local dignitaries, matrons in Spanish finery, vaqueros on horseback, spellbound children, costumed performers, delighted parade-goers, and the annually selected El Presidentes, Spirits of Fiesta and Saint Barbaras, along with predecessors Queen of Fiesta and Miss Santa Barbara. Featured are news and publicity photos, postcard images, formal portraits, and those taken by several well-known photographers including Karl Obert (1897-1976), Jessie Tarbox Beals (1870-1942), and Fritz Olenberger (present day).
The Museum has mounted exhibitions celebrating Old Spanish Days for several years, including limited exhibits during the three years of COVID restrictions. This is the first “Project Fiesta” show dedicated entirely to photography.
The Santa Barbara Historical Museum is located in downtown Santa Barbara at 136 East de la Guerra Street. Admission is free. Hours are currently Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m.