Historical Museum Hosts Elegant Fiesta Celebration

Annual Fiesta del Museo Draws 300 Supporters and Raises $100,000

Board Vice President Sharon Bradford and Trustee Brett Hodges | Credit: Gail Arnold

On July 20, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum held its annual fundraiser – Fiesta del Museo – an elegant affair celebrating the dance and culture of Old Spanish Days, which raised about $100,000 for the museum.

Most female guests arrived in colorful Fiesta or old Spanish-style gowns, while men opted for formal Spanish suits or Western attire. During the cocktail hour in the Museum’s lower courtyard, the more than 300 guests mingled, perused silent auction items, and enjoyed music by guitarist Sam Adams and a dance performance by Junior Spirit of Fiesta, Paloma Valenzuela.  

The museum itself remained open for guests to enjoy current exhibits, including Project Fiesta!: A History of Old Spanish Days, which brings to life the history of Old Spanish Days through artwork, clothing, artifacts, historical photos, oral history and vintage posters. It runs through September 22.

A gourmet three-course meal was served in the main (Adobe) Courtyard. Luxurious white draperies and large Moroccan-inspired pendant chandeliers graced the perimeter. Tables were adorned with fine linens and candelabras from the museum’s collection.

The program included captivating flamenco performances by several stars in the flamenco world, including Amanda Cuevas, Manuel Gutierrez, Timo Nuñez, and Spirit of Fiesta Sophia Cordero, who was also the 2017 Santa Barbara Teen Dance Star. Colorful folklorica dance was performed by Grupo de Danza Folklorica Quetzalcoatl.

Historian Erin Graffy hosted an interesting and entertaining historical show, with Flamenco Santa Barbara dancers modeling or carrying an artifact that once belonged to a prominent early day Santa Barbara family and now is part of the museum’s rich collection.  A runway was built out into the courtyard, enabling all guests to get a close view of the show. Graffy gave brief yet insightful summaries of the families and the artifacts, including a spade bit engraved with the owner’s name, Jose Antonio de la Guerra, and a lace and taffeta mantilla worn by Francisca de la Guerra Dibblee along with a 1924 portrait of Francisca wearing the same. For fun, a hunting knife and leather case said to have been used by Apache leader Geronimo was also shared.

Board President William Reynolds made a special appeal for a $500,000 improvement project for the 10,000 square foot subterranean storage vault to address temperature and humidity issues. The vault houses much of the museum’s collection, which includes hundreds of thousands of items, including furniture, clothing, maps, artwork, weapons, and saddles from the Chumash, Mexican, Spanish, and American periods. About $45,000 was raised for the project. The evening also included a Western-style auction by Jewels Eubanks and concluded with dancing to the music of Elements Band.

In addition to Project Fiesta!, the museum currently has on exhibit Great Photographers in Santa Barbara History, which runs through late fall. The museum’s permanent collection includes The Story of Santa Barbara, which traces development from Chumash times to the mid-20th century, and the Edward Borein Gallery, featuring the artist’s paintings and etchings. 

The museum offers educational programs for children and adults and conducts research. Admission is free during Fiesta, July 31 – August 3, otherwise it is $7 for adults, $5 seniors/students, and free for members/those under 18. The museum has exhibit openings, talks, History Happy Hours, and historical walks, all of which are open to the public.  Membership comes with lots of benefits, including free museum admission, Gledhill Library privileges, free admission to some events, and early notice of all museum happenings.  

For more information about the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, go to http://sbhistorical.org.

Send invites to gail@independent.com.

Museum Board Secretary Warren Miller and Marlene Miller
Museum Board Treasurer Chris Greco and Kathy Greco
Father Larry Gosselin, OFM and 2017 Fiesta Presidenta Rhonda Ledson Henderson
Ada Connor and Neal Graffy
Keith Mautino Moore and Julie Ann Brown
Fiesta Primer Vice Presidente Erik Davis and Fiesta Division Chief, External Relations Angelique Davis
Guests enjoy the reception.
Museum Board Vice President Sharon Bradford and Museum Board Trustee Brett Hodges


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