Fiesta Mulls Its Options, I Madonnari Takes Chalk Drawings Online

Big Santa Barbara Festivals Face Coronavirus

The 92nd anniversary of the Fiesta Historical Parade features floats 600+ horses depicting episodes from the history of the Santa Barbara and California by descendants of local Native Americans, Spanish Pioneers, the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, and local service clubs and organizations. | Credit: Paul Wellman

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Speculation swirled this week on whether Fiesta, held annually for nearly a century, would cancel its 2020 event, while I Madonnari turned to online — following the lead of Earth Day and Solstice — for its annual chalk-drawing fest. The Fiesta rumors were triggered after the Old Spanish Days Board of Directors postponed April and May events. “We have not yet announced how Fiesta might be modified this year,” spokesperson Angelique Davis wrote in an email, “but plans are in the works and will be announced once they have been approved by the board.”

I Madonnari takes place over the Memorial Day weekend and had at first been canceled. But the family of artists and sponsors who’ve supported the fest for years asked to put it online. “The artists are really happy, and we’ve had a nice response from sponsors,” said Kathy Koury, who founded the festival in 1987. It’s now moving from the parking lot at the Old Mission Santa Barbara to the driveways of the various artists involved May 23-25 through Instagram and Facebook. The annual fundraiser for the Children’s Creative Project sends arts education to more than 100 public schools and 50,000 students through the County Education Office; more can be found here.

Earth Day, which had originally been moved to July, was canceled entirely this year, said Sigrid Wright, CEO of sponsor Community Environmental Council, and the April online event was created in its stead. Solstice has gone virtual in multiple ways, all of which culminate in an online parade on June 20.

Fiesta week’s first mercado would open August 5 this year, but the highly infectious and persistent COVID-19 bug makes even mid-summer events a question. “We are anticipating that large gatherings could continue to be prohibited through the summer months,” Davis wrote. “The health and safety of our community is our top priority.… With this in mind, we are working with government officials, sponsors, and collaborative partners on creative ways to honor our rich traditions while maintaining the Spirit of our beloved festival.”

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