When Robin Elander, the newly appointed executive director of Santa Barbara’s popular Summer Solstice festival, greets me in her office after a long planning meeting, I expect her to look tired, but she’s brimming with excitement. “I’m still drinking from the firehose,” she tells me with a big smile, overjoyed with all that she’s learning from the people who’ve long been involved in this treasured, 42-year-old tradition.
Robin’s experience coordinating civic events runs deep: She was in charge of Santa Barbara’s Open Streets Festival in Santa Barbara for three years, and before that, she coordinated the Ventura Art Walk and other arts events in Ventura’s Downtown Cultural District. She is also president of Global Good Impact, a Santa Barbara-based company dedicated to strengthening individuals and communities worldwide.
So what can we expect from Robin’s leadership of Summer Solstice? She’s already working on a children’s parade on Sunday, encouraging more young people to participate in the workshop, and redesigning the beer garden so it includes healthier alternatives.
This avid surfer with a sun-kissed face answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your current state of mind?
A bit hyperactive with a full heart. This new gig is so fun, full of great people and a lot of moving parts. It’s also coming at me like a freight train that I’m trying to keep up with. It’s not June yet right?
What is your most marked characteristic?
You’ll have to ask the people around me, but I guess I’m a bit of a goof ball. I’m a huge sucker for community and camaraderie in all its forms. I must sit in the sun daily. I am a hammock-lover and seeker of waves and fireplaces.
Where would you most like to live?
I’m very happy here in Santa Barbara. I feel more or less spoiled rotten all the time in this 70 or so degree place. I grew up near Buffalo, New York (Jamestown, to be specific) and so I constantly feel on a sort of vacation here on most days. Despite this, I do have a desire to try out and learn about many more places before I skid into the grave.
I had the opportunity to do a good stint of traveling a few years back and loved unique the diversity of each day on the move. Now I like that combination of leaving and coming back to home, instead of staying away so long.
What is the quality you most like in people?
I like down to earth, happy-go-lucky people, who like to dig in and get their hands dirty and dive into whatever they are involved with open arms. I love people who aren’t afraid to try and keep on trying on things they are passionate about.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I definitely believe that when large groups of people in communities work together on ideas that are bigger than themselves that anything is possible. That is my idea of perfect happiness. Oh and sitting next to clear mountain lakes after backpacking a few days to get deep into the after Sierras — those lakes and quiet skies are pretty amazing too.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is not having enough time to do all the things I want to do and spend time with all of the people I want to spend the time with. I want to hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, ice climb in Patagonia, and finish a big trip I started several years back that includes traveling from Bolivia to the end of South America slowly. But I also want to stay put and put on big community events and hug my friends and local family daily. Life is a beautiful dilemma.
Who do you most admire?
I most admire my mother for all the adversity she encountered and still somehow was able to maintain being a kind, gentle soul. I am forever grateful for all she taught me.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Iced coffee with hazelnut or vanilla syrup and half-and-half. Yep guilty.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
I most value trustworthy, good listeners, fun-loving, low-key friends. Friends that you can come back to after years of being apart and pick up like you never left.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I’ve likely used them already somewhere here, but community and camaraderie.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could play a guitar by a bonfire or stay up for days at a time without sleep.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I would have let go of shyness earlier in life. I have left that part of me go mostly, but it took a while.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Allowing myself to be the person I’ve wanted to become and letting go of trying be the things other people have wanted me to be.
What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possessions are the art, stories, friends, and knowledge I’ve obtained while traveling and living in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Little moments make us who we are. I am only a big collection of moments, I really don’t have too much more in terms of possessions. But don’t steal my surfboard or my scooter.
What makes you laugh the most?
Most everything makes me laugh. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing.
What is your motto?
No fear. Stop the nonsense and just do it already.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I’ve always been intrigued by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in part because of everything I’ve read, in part because she had the same middle/maiden name as my mom’s side of the family (Cady). I tend to be a bit of an activist and idealist and she stood for making the world around her brighter even though it might be almost impossible at the moment. I’ve always appreciated that spirit and attempt to incorporate it into what I do.
On what occasion do you lie?
I suppose I let out a big fat lie when I say I have had enough dessert, or when I say I want to get out of the water from surfing or if I joke about being a morning person. I always want more dessert, I never want to get out of the water, and I could always use a few more minutes of sleep.