Opening: Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara

Stroll a mercado, admire the horses, watch a dance at the venerable celebration.

SEARCHING FOR SWEET CANCIONES, and applause-worthy parades, and beautiful horse shows, and dashing flamenco presentations, and the sorts of sights, events, and happenings that celebrate traditions that stretch back centuries? There are many places and events around the Golden State where someone hoping to connect with history, art, and culture may look, from ballet folklorico evenings to stirring, hymn-filled concerts to La Posadas at Christmastime to Día de los Muertos altars in the fall. But one of the most venerable and vibrant of this lively and lovely group happens in Santa Barbara mere moments after we've passed through the doorway to August each year. Adding to that vibrancy? Old Spanish Days runs not for a night or two but for five days, with each of those days boasting an impressive schedule, making it a true fiesta for the ages. Ready to celebrate? Turn your pony in the direction of Santa Barbara and clip-clop for various points around the city...

THROUGH SUNDAY, AUG. 6: Old Spanish Days has so much happening that alighting upon one location will not give the full picture, though you can count on something sublime to happen wherever you land. There's much to choose from activity- and spectacle-wise, including horse events, mercado-marvelous shopping, dance shows, Santa Barbara Mission tours, Las Noches de Ronda, arts & crafts, and the beloved El Desfile de los Niños. This Children's Parade is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, and if you guessed State Street would serve as its corazón, you'd be correct. And should you stop by on the final afternoon of Old Spanish Days, be sure to take in the West Coast Symphony Annual Free Fiesta Concert at 3 p.m. in the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens. In just a matter of a few years, in 2024, the fiesta will be moving into its celebratory centennial, further revealing it is one of the most important, history-revering, heart-gladdening festivities in all the land.

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