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Wild, Wacky, and Romantic

None Dare Call It Old Mexican Days


IT’S OURS: Fiesta, that is. (Old Spanish Days, if you prefer.)

The Outside World has Bastille Day, Mardi Gras, Carnival in Rio, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Summer Solstice, Fourth of July, Easter, Chinese New Year, Doo-Dah Parade, Day of the Dead, Cinco de Mayo, etc.

Barney Brantingham

But Fiesta is ours. One big, fun block party once a year. Everyone’s invited. Anybody’s kids can dance flamenco on the De la Guerra Plaza stage or do the fandango. You don’t need to come from a Famous First Family to enter your kids in the Children’s Parade.

It’s a week when everything gets a little wild and wacky and, if the mood strikes, romantic.

It’s not Fiesta if you haven’t fallen in love just once in your life under that creamy August moon, with someone you rub elbows with at the margarita bar — someone from the office or a neighbor, a blonde at the end of the bar with cascarones in her hair, or some dark-haired guy with an intriguing accent.

Fiesta week can mean enough excitement for a lifetime, or, for some, a time to get out of town.

Your kids have practiced a year at one of the dance studios and now, nervous as all get-out, it’s their moment — the daughter in an expensive Spanish-style dress you couldn’t really afford, or the son in a too-small dark suit and a painted-on mustache — to strut their stuff in front of tearful parents and gawking tourists.

Fiesta is nothing to take seriously. True, “Old Spanish Days” never existed in the way the posters portray. Old Mexican Days would fit history better. The era was also short on “Days of the Dons” glamour, unless you’re in love with manure, dusty streets, and lack of air conditioning.

But we know all that. Just as we know that this Saint Barbara business is just a myth. There’s no proof that she ever existed, and the Catholic Church doesn’t even consider her a saint. The Orthodox Church, however, does venerate her, and Saint Barbara is also recognized as the patron saint of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Ordnancemen.

But after all, the city and county were named for her, and we have a tradition of naming a “Saint Barbara” to reign over the Fiesta parade. That’s one parade we don’t want to rain on.

I’ll be eating my way through Fiesta as usual, posting online after tasting around town. Tip: The official Fiesta brochure doesn’t mention it, but Fiesta food aficionados know that authentic Mexican cuisine awaits at Our Lady of Guadalupe on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

BEVMO! BLUES: It’s enough to drive San Roque residents to drink. Three conservative Santa Barbara councilmembers, who swore to voters last fall that they’d valiantly protect neighborhoods, just bashed San Roque. They gave preliminary okay to the BevMo! upper State Street liquor outlet, with its noise, traffic, and caravans of huge delivery trucks. To say nothing of a parking mess hangover sure to come. The parking lot is pint-sized, the narrow alley behind runs past a row of homes, and employees will surely be searching nearby streets for parking spots. San Roque residents are already upset because the city okayed Verizon, whose employees crowd nearby residential streets because parking is inadequate. But councilmembers Michael Self, Dale Francisco, and Frank Hotchkiss just couldn’t say no to BevMo! Nor could Mayor Helene (what was she thinking?) Schneider.

The city council’s final okay is due in a few weeks. I asked Marc Chytilo, attorney for neighbors who had appealed to the council about the Architectural Board of Review’s (ABR) okay, if he was taking the issue to court. He said he wanted to await final council action before deciding.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) still hasn’t given its okay. No matter what the council does about the ABR, the deciding action was already taken when the police department gave its thumbs-up weeks ago, an ABC official told me this week. ABC expects to finish its investigation this month and schedule a hearing in Santa Barbara for sometime next year. Unless, of course, opponents withdraw their protests, which isn’t likely.

Precious Nonsense

  • Where: Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre, 1800 Refugio Rd., Goleta, CA
  • Cost: $37 - $45
  • Age limit: All ages

Full event details

SILLY SULLIVAN: It’s a romp, it’s silly, and I wonder what Gilbert & Sullivan would think of it. It’s Precious Nonsense, being staged at the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre, including a raucous version of G & S’s Pirates of Penzance. Leaders in this wacky musical are the Lunt and Fontanne stage duo of Refugio Road, producer/actors Susie and David Couch. It shows through September 5.

TRAGIC LOVERS: Gangs rampaging through Solvang? No, just the Jets and the Sharks having a rumble as Tony and Maria fall tragically in love in a brilliantly staged West Side Story at the PCPA’s open-air Festival Theater. I was blown away by the dancing Saturday night. Sue shed a tear at the end. (Couldn’t Shakespeare have been given a rewrite by a script doctor to provide a happy ending? Call it West Side Without Tears? Bilingual Love? Speaking of which, I hear Santa Barbara High plans to stage a bilingual version of WSS.)

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