Santa Barbara Summer Solstice

Greet the longest day of the year with music, dance, and a parade.

THE LONGEST DAY OF THE YEAR: How do Northern Hemisphereans typically greet June 21, that sunshine-packed day of the year when there's lots of light and not too much night? They might gather on a hilltop to enjoy the dawn or head for a garden to watch flowers open or do something that puts them in touch with nature, the cosmos, and our nearest star. Or, if you're Santa Barbara, you host one of the nation's best-known Summer Solstice happenings, a three-day festival and one-time parade that is attended by over 100,000 people. That's what happens when you've been around for four decades -- word gets out, and how.

THE FESTIVAL: Make for Alameda Park on Friday, June 20, Saturday, June 21, and Sunday, June 22 for loads of tunes -- Raw Silk with Leslie Lembo, a local favorite, will play, as will the funky Area 51 and rock-loving Ambrosia, among others -- and loads of other beyond-tunes to-dos. A children's area filled with magicians and storytellers is one festival staple, as are the art projects kidlets jump into (at no cost to join). As for the other festy doings? A beer and wine garden, and arts and crafts boutique, and a look at the floats after the Saturday parade.

THE PARADE: And about that famous parade that shimmies up the heart of State Street... It's colorful. The costumes are downright outlandish. The spirit is vibrant and community-good. There are often inflatables and other eye-catching props. And the theme this year? Games. The floats are people-powered, as befits a city that takes its Earth Day heritage seriously, and no "commercial elements" -- words, logos, and such -- are permitted. The parade, which is on at noon on June 21, is outlandish and sweet and a great coming-together, year after year.

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