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Santa Barbara's Old Spanish Days

Santa Barbara's historic fiesta twirls into August.

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Santa Barbara's Old Spanish Days

Old Spanish Days

The 2012 Old Spanish Days fiesta dances in Santa Barbara from Aug. 1 through 5.

82 YEARS: City-wide annual parties don't come much more historic and fabled and anticipated than Santa Barbara's Old Spanish Days. Sure, we went and pulled out a lot of hyperbolic words there, but a fiesta that has been around for over eight decades deserves a bit of festooning. Not that Old Spanish Days needs much in the way of adornments; it is surely one of the American Riviera's most photographed, most written-about, and most visited annual happenings. And it is set to roll again from Wednesday, Aug. 1 through Sunday, Aug. 5.

ON THE CALENDAR: There are a number of can't-miss events that make the top of the Old Spanish Days list. The mercados are must-visits for many people (El Mercado de la Guerra is across from City Hall, while El Mercado del Norte is in Mackenzie Park.) The Flor y Canto at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens is also a thing of beauty; you'll see "dances & songs of the 19th century" performed live. That's on Friday, Aug. 3. There's also the rodeo and the oh-so-popular El Desfile de los Niños, or Children's parade, on Saturday, Aug. 4. It's year 82 for the grand procession, which is noted for its costumes and community spirit. Whatever you think you might want to do, be sure to check the schedule to see if it is a one-day-only event or going on all five days.

ON THE MENU: So much comida sabrosa, of course. You can find a lot of traditional Spanish and Mexican eats at the mercados, as well as the restaurants close to the multiple events. And the Fiesta Crazy Horse Cantina at Mercado del Norte? That's the place for beer margaritas.

Happy Fiesta, Santa Barbara!

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