Santa Barbara’s iconic buildings turned blue to honor the medical workers who care for highly infectious patients with COVID-19 and for the frontline workers like grocery store clerks, restaurant workers, and others in essential jobs that require them to encounter the potentially contagious public.

Inspired by the international #LightItBlue project, area participants included the Cottage hospitals, the Arlington, the Old Mission, the Lobero, and the Sea Center. The city’s Nina Johnson said care had been taken in selecting the venues to ensure they could be enjoyed from a safe distance. “Our challenge is creating an attraction without attracting a crowd,” she said.

Out on Stearns Wharf, the Sea Center’s was a onetime event, said Luke Swetland, director of its parent the Natural History Museum. “Those were artists we’ve worked with in the past who set up all the lighting equipment for opening night,” Swetland said. He wasn’t certain about next Thursday, however: “Like COVID, things keep changing every day.” The light magic came from Gartner Design Company, The Environment Makers, Ethan Turpin Art and Design, Bella Vista Designs, Sparks Creative Events and Nina Dunbar.

A steady stream of cars drove over Stearns Wharf to catch the Sea Center lights, most driving out again to seek out the other displays. Small groups of people gathered, as well, to admire the floating lights as the sun set on Thursday.

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