Inside Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice 

See the Magic Underway at the Community Arts Workshop to Prep for June 25 Parade

Inside Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice 

 See the Magic Underway at the Community Arts Workshop to Prep for June 25 Parade

By Ingrid Bostrom | June 23, 2022

Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

Cover this year’s preparations for the Summer Solstice parade? Of course! 

Ever eager to delve into the Santa Barbara scene, I set off to the Solstice workshop, wandering up Garden Street toward a brick building. Outside, a colorful mural proclaimed: “Summer Solstice Workshop 2022.” 

I’m a Solstice newbie, so only then did I realize that this wasn’t attending just one of many workshops leading up to the June 25 parade. This collection of structures at the corner of Garden and Ortega streets, known as the Community Arts Workshop, is the artistic headquarters for all things Solstice. I soon learned that the parade’s workshop model dates back to 1978 — the parade itself started four years earlier — and has been hosted at this location since 2009.  

The property at 631 Garden Street features rooms for sewing and mask-making among the other indoor and outdoor spaces for makers that are layered throughout the site. Creative chaos abounds from every nook and individual on premise, which I came to appreciate after spending multiple days exploring the workshop for this photo essay. 

One day, as an oversized inflatable duck filled loudly with air, someone complained of the noise but was told to take a breath and “ground through his boots.” I giggled to myself, delighted to witness their whimsical exchange, 

During my visits, I made rounds snapping photos and hearing stories, but I recognized that I would barely scratch the surface of this rich cultural experience. I asked about floats and heard elaborate concepts for this year’s theme, which is “Shine,” from topical themes to sacred geometry, eternal love, sun gods, and honoring individuals who have passed away.

I reveled at the camaraderie, deep friendships, and cooperation at play, and I was inspired by the limitless imaginations of the participants. Countless hours of tinkering and problem-solving are required for these grand ideas to exhibit themselves in float and costume form. 

Most of all, I learned that there’s no better vantage point than behind the scenes to fully appreciate the parade’s true meaning. Luckily for you readers, the workshop is open to all, and helping hands are encouraged and welcomed. Isn’t that how community truly shines?

Riccardo Morrison, Solstice Artistic Director.

Nobuo saws plywood for a float platform at the Solstice Workshop. He provides technical help to any artist who needs it.

Pali-X-Mano has been involved with the Solstice Festival since 1990. He’s a master of elaborate concepts for floats and costumes and is perhaps most known for his large inflatable creations.

Carlos Cuellar has been creating for the Solstice parade for approximately 20 years. One of his several projects this year includes a creation to honor beloved Solstice artist, Anne Chevrefils, who passed recently. He will restore Chevrefils’ monkey to be reused in her honor.

Claudia Bratton, Artist in Residence.

Sun Bear Wilshun takes a Workshop break to pet Moose.

The Summer Solstice Workshop 2022 is being held at the Community Arts Workshop, 631 Garden Street.

Mask maker Hathor Hammett holds a photo of her masked self in one of her creations.

Raven Wylde, Pali-X-Mano (Artist in Residence), and Penny Little (Solstice Special Projects Manager).

Newlyweds, Raven and Pali-X-Mano dance atop the platform of one of Pali’s works in progress. They were married at the Workshop location and one of Pali’s floats will feature the arbor from their wedding.

Mask maker Hathor Hammett in her bear mask.

Sun Bear Wilshun eyes his dragon creation, contemplating repairs needed after transporting it. His dragon will be repurposed after use in previous parades.

 Pali-X-Mano’s metal tree and inflatable sculpture. 

Sun Bear Wilshun makes wings out of plywood for his dragon.

Henry Castelo’s heart is happy to return to the Solstice festival community after living out of state for almost a decade.

 A mixed-media bird from a previous parade soars over the Solstice Festival workspace.

Jason’s peaceful place, covering the top of a crab sculpture (in progress) with papier-mâché. 

Heart and soul into the details of Pali-X-Mano’s tree. 

Lisa Thomas, Artist in Residence, is responsible for the “Pass the Hat” float, dedicated to raising funds for the parade. Local dignitaries and their families accompany this float.

Gretchen Graham (left) and Shanny Stark with La Boheme Dance cut strips of fabric for costumes. 

David Machacek (left) and Jeff Dutcher stand behind their “Ducky Derby” float. Their float pays homage to Dutcher’s mom, who used to organize ducky derbies to raise funds for the Mental Health Association in Greenfield, Indiana.

Geoffrey Barbie, nicknamed “Geo,” is creating a float dedicated to the vesica piscis, “the mother of all polygons.” This is the 16th parade that Geo has been involved with.

Geoffrey “Geo” Barbie (left) and Richard O’Steen cultivate close friendships through the Solstice Festival.

Golden costumes in progress for local dignitaries and their families to wear. Mayor Randy Rowse will don gold sequins. 

A sun peers down from the doorway of the mask-making room, where Caroline Walker and Hathor Hammett work.

Caroline Walker is creating a series of masks to represent sun gods from different cultures. Walker has formerly worked in the costume department, and this is her first year as a mask-maker. She “loves the creative outlet.” 

BellaDonna has been designing and sewing drag costumes for 20-plus years and is a designated seamstress with the Solstice Festival for the first time this year. “How was I not a part of this thing before?” 

Carlos Cuellar Jr. drenched in sunlight and papier-mâché paste

Daisy Scott with Voice Magazine stopped by to volunteer her help. 

Raven Wylde in head-to-toe style while detailing her float.

Amber Prado is all smiles while helping out with a crabby float, inspired by the crab from the movie Moana

Jenson Smith-Morrison inside the frame of a float that will be shaped as a crab. The pulley system will operate the crab’s claws. 

Sun Bear Wilshun, Riccardo Morrison, Gueria Gaston (petting Moose), Carlos Cuellar, and Beeman (left to right) are stronger together

 Irene Ramirez mixing silver paint to sponge onto the moon float behind her.

Beeman — who prefers to drop his first name, Gregory, as his last name alone suits him better — has dedicated his passion for music and art to the finale float for 40-plus years. He looks forward to Solstice more than all of the other holidays combined. As he deliberated about the perfect golden yellow to paint his float in progress, Beeman described the parade experience as a “check-yourself day for your physical and mental health at that present moment.”

Celebrate Summer Solstice 2022

The Summer Solstice Parade begins at the corner of Ortega and Santa Barbara streets at noon on June 25 and continues up Santa Barbara Street until reaching the festival at Alameda Park. Other festivities are occurring on June 23 and 24 as well. See for details.


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