Britt Price, Kayla Johnson, Patricia Duran, LaurieKim Castro, and Mitsuko Conner Newlan

Seeking solace from last weekend’s heat wave, I joined hundreds of other scenesters at the coolness that was the opening of Nights at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Kicking off its monthly summer soirees with Over Rainbows and Down Rabbit Holes-based on SBMA’s current exhibit of children’s books illustrations-the evening fulfilled its promise of art, music, and mingling, bringing culture to the community while creatively indulging all our senses.

The entrance to the museum was packed with people meeting up with friends, attempting patience in the long drink lines, and trying to catch a glimpse of the fabulousness that was Jill Johnson’s feather head ornament. I felt sorry for the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow, who were manning the “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” cupcake bar, but they cheerfully hid how hot they must have been inside their costumes (poor, poor lion!) and handed out yummy treats with your personal fortune predicted through Wizard of Oz quotes.

Fingers crossed for that museum-standard air conditioning on full blast, I squeezed through the crowd and headed upstairs for a peep-scoping aerial view. There I came upon a face-painting duo creatively decorating exposed flesh-evoking instant nostalgia for childhood birthday parties I had attended-who kindly granted my request for “something pretty that won’t melt off my face.” After a quick look around for a bounce house (that was a no-go), I shared a laugh with “Teller of Tall Tales” Marc Hoerrmann, who was reading aloud classic lines from favorites Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle. Next up, I sampled the evening’s themed drinks-Absolut Pears King Midas-tinis and the Cruzan Rum Glass Slippers-grabbed handfuls of the appetizers that came my way, and then circled back downstairs.

The highly anticipated mask-making table was a huge hit for those of us well-tuned into our creative inner child. Folks crammed around the tables, remembering how to use the awkward child-proofed scissors to cut out decorations inspired by Beatrix Potter’s classic tale of Peter Rabbit, mixed with choice quotes from another cult classic with a not-so-funny bunny twist, the movie Fatal Attraction.

The highlight of Nights was the band Instant Love Mix, with lead singer Tina wailing on the mike dressed like a Harujuku girl’s version of Alice in Wonderland, and dancing around a triptastic tea party fantasy set while bandmates the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit played theme-appropriate tunes that kept me dancing back for more.

Now in its fifth season, Nights clearly knows how to throw a party and definitely has a place on Santa Barbara’s social calendar (although rising ticket prices may have deterred a younger crowd). Still, I’m thankful for Nights’ funky trip down the rabbit hole, my press pass, and that the vicious $12 martini rumor that circled my office before the event proved to be wonderfully false.


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