Photos by Paul Wellman (unless otherwise noted)
The year 2017. To mangle a line from writer Charles Dickens, it was the worst of years, it was the worst of years.
It was the year of extreme politics and extreme weather. It started with the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president, a seismic and violent transformation in the way politics are conducted. Santa Barbarans reacted as they usually do. Thousands took to the streets. Some hunkered down for the long haul and organized.
But others jumped on board the Trump juggernaut or at least tried to, like Mike Stoker, who first got the “Lock ’er up” ball rolling; former assemblymember Abel Maldonado, a contender for Secretary of Agriculture; and former CKE executive and recent Montecitan Andy Puzder, whose nomination as Labor Secretary was derailed after it came out he’d hired an “illegal” immigrant as a nanny.
The politics of immigration were very much alive and not well, in Santa Barbara as with the rest of the country. Fear and anger dominated. Even nature followed suit.
Santa Barbara posted the hottest year since forever and also one of the driest. We had a freakish micro-hurricane downtown right in the middle of summer, pelting rain and hail.
And of course, there was the Thomas Fire, California’s biggest megafire in modern history (scenes of which fill this page and the next). (All evacuations were lifted last Thursday, but full containment isn’t expected until early January.) We also had the Whittier Fire, scary in its own way.
Someway and somehow, the Santa Barbara Independent’s longtime photographer Paul Wellman managed to be everywhere at the same time. Or maybe it just seemed that way. In the midst of all this upheaval, life went on. People played, sang, danced, ate, lived life, swam with the fishes, and pondered the mysteries. Wellman was there, too, telling all these stories with his signature combination of eye, camera, and heart.
Here — in a compressed encapsulation — is his, and our, story of 2017.
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The Thomas Fire
The Thomas Fire has burned for more than three weeks, but it got really scary just before dawn on Saturday, December 16, as it raged down the hillsides toward Montecito, pushed by 65-mile-per-hour winds.
The Whittier Fire
Though overwhelmed in scope and scare tactics by the Thomas Fire, the Whittier Fire rattled our cages for quite a while in July as it burned more than 18,000 acres from Cachuma Lake to the foothills above Goleta and Gaviota.
A tribute to those we lost in 2017.
Five years of drought were alleviated briefly by winter rains across Santa Barbara.
The people and places that made the news in 2017.
Political changes swept through Santa Barbara in 2017.
Pop, Rock & Jazz
The best of the year's music, across genres.
Folks turned out in droves to see the bounty of performing arts offerings that were staged in 2017.
The sports scene in Santa Barbara was active as ever in 2017.