Santa Barbara City councilmember Grant House serves cake during the 90+ birthday event
Thy Vo

More than two dozen nonagenarians — and some sneaky fellows in their eighties — were treated to an afternoon of ice cream, cake, and live jazz at the annual 90+ birthday event hosted on Thursday afternoon by Santa Barbara’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmember Grant House stopped by to serve ice cream and welcome the seniors to the ballroom of the newly renovated Carrillo Recreation Center, which will have its grand reopening later this month. Lu Gilbert, an AARP member and now 93, recalls the very first birthday social in 1985. “It was in this very room,” Gilbert said. “All the organizations would put up their tables and try to get us to join.”

Santa Barbara's 90+ birthday bash
Thy Vo

“With all the budget crunches, we had to let go of it for awhile,” said recreation supervisor Jason Bryan. The last social was in 2008, a ritzy one at the DoubleTree Resort. Until, of course, Sam Salario, one of the event’s sponsors, noticed its absence. “He recently turned 90 and said, ‘Hey, I’m 90, where’s my party?'”

In between the music and introductions, philanthropist Larry Crandell, who recently turned 88, offered some comic relief. “Is there any woman in this room who is single?” Gilbert’s hand shot up into the air, to a ripple of laughter. “Those of you who are 90 — I’m 88. I’m trying to make it to 90, and I admire you.”

Although the event is age-specific, there’s no carding at the door. “It’s the honor system,” Bryan said. “I’ve had people who’ve volunteered for me for years who ask, ‘I’m 89, can I still come?’ And I say of course you can.”


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