Summer Solstice Parade began in 1974, as a birthday celebration for a popular artist and mime named Michael Gonzales. In subsequent years, their parade joined forces with a Summer Solstice Music Festival coordinated by Michael Felcher, sponsored by The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, staged at the Sunken Gardens, to celebrate the longest day of the year.
The parade and festival is the largest event in Santa Barbara County, drawing crowds of over 100,000 spectators from around the world. From these humble beginnings arose a celebration of life which is like no other.
Today, the Summer Solstice Celebration has evolved into creative and original display of floats, giant puppets, whimsical costumes and masks of more than 1,000 parade participants of all ethnic and economic backgrounds. There is dancing, music, drumming and drama that enthralls the spectators. Each year there is an annual artistic competition for the Solstice T-Shirt and Poster design that is sold as a fundraising vehicle for the event.
The festival in Alameda Park grew from the earlier gatherings at the Sunken Gardens of the County Courthouse. When the number of people outgrew the size of the courthouse, the event was moved to Alameda Park. Alameda Park is where everyone can enjoy a wonderful eclectic collection of live world music including famous local groups as well as local food vendors and artists and craftspeople from around the country. The festival typically runs for three days, Friday through Sunday, however, schedules and event specifics can change from year to year. For specific details on the current years festivities, please click on the current year button in the main menu or here.
Friday is a nod to “evening events of years past”. It’s a special evening, showcasing local talents with music, dance and performances. Some of the parade ensembles are featured as well as all of the food booths, a wine and beer garden and delightful collection of arts and crafts vendors.
In addition to the parade, which begins Saturday on State Street at high noon, the festivities continue in Alameda Park with free musical performances, a special free children’s festival, a DJ area for dancing and enjoying techno music, a drum circle that keeps the beat going all afternoon in addition to the food booths, wine and beer garden and collection of arts and crafts vendors.
The festival is also open on Sunday and includes a delightful Children’s parade.
As a 501(c)3, non profit, community arts organization, the Summer Solstice Celebration is responsible for carrying on Michael’s wonderful, multicultural performing arts celebration and ensuring an extravagant celebration of life through art for many years to come.
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