Fiesta Recap: Parades Rerouted, Thousands Flock Downtown, No Serious Crimes Reported

After Two Years of Scaled-Back Festivities, Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta Week Returned Full-Force for 2022

Old Spanish Days returned in full force in 2022 with a renewed spirit and a brand-new parade route for Friday's El Desfile Histórico, which drew thousands along Cabrillo Boulevard. | Credit: Emma Spencer

Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta week has come and gone, and though it might be too early for an official count on how many flocked to the dozens of events downtown, or how many dollars were spent at local businesses, the event’s organizers are ecstatic for five successful days of reveling — and local law enforcement reported no serious crimes related to the festivities.

“This weekend went fantastic,” said Maria Cabrera, La Presidente of Old Spanish Days’ Executive Committee for 2022. “It was a wonderful Fiesta.”

After two summers of severely scaled-back or canceled events, Old Spanish Days returned in full force, with a renewed spirit and a brand-new parade route that drew thousands along Cabrillo Boulevard on Friday and Saturday for the El Desfile Historico (Historical Parade) and El Desfile de los Niños (Children’s Parade), respectively.

Credit: Fritz Olenberger

The new route was a success, according to the organizers and participants. The wider road gave more room for the hundreds of horses in El Desfile Histórico — one of the largest equestrian parades in the nation — and the new backdrop of palm trees, mountains, and bright blue sky made for an even more photogenic parade experience.

“The street was very wide,” Cabrera said. “Seeing the horses, feeling the sea breeze — the vibes were all joy and happiness.”

State Street’s promenade opened up the downtown experience to the thousands of locals and visitors who filled the streets, cracking colorful cascarones and scattering confetti all along the wide-open walkway. The three mercados at MacKenzie Park, De la Guerra Plaza, and Our Lady of Guadalupe were packed with hungry people eager to grab tortas, tamales, or drinks while area flamenco dancers made the rounds at the many stages around town.

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At the Mission, La Fiesta Pequeña kicked off the events with singing and dancing; at the courthouse, Las Noches de Ronda kept the party going with even more performances. Both courtyards were packed with a patchwork of picnic blankets and chairs as people watched flamenco, mariachi, and folklórico dances while the sun slowly set.

Celebración de los Dignatarios brought some of the city’s biggest names to the Santa Barbara Zoo, while the Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo, Arts & Craft Show, and Fiesta Makers Markets provided great places to check out shows and buy handmade wares.

Credit: Fritz Olenberger

On Sunday, hundreds of bicyclists made the unofficial “Fiesta Cruiser Run,” meeting at Stearns Wharf and then making the trek out to Goleta Beach. The ride is one of the biggest of the year, with many of the original cruisers making the same trip every Fiesta Sunday since the late ’70s.

But the highlight of Fiesta may very well be the fact that the Santa Barbara Police Department reported no serious crimes or emergencies over the entire five days of partying. Police spokesperson Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale said there were “no major criminal matters, serious injuries, or fatalities” directly related to Fiesta. Out of 181 total calls received, the SBPD issued 119 citations and made 58 arrests, he said, with the most common crimes being open container violations and disorderly conduct, which includes “drunk in public and some small verbal or physical fights.”

Even though the cleanup for this year’s Fiesta is still underway, with many volunteers including local high school athletes lending a hand, the Old Spanish Days organizers are already looking forward to next year, and the big 100-year anniversary coming up after that in 2024. “As soon as [Spirit of Fiesta] auditions are over, we are meeting and setting dates for next year,” Cabrera said. “We have big plans for the 100th.”

Credit: Fritz Olenberger

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