Jun 29

Santa Barbara Solstice and Why I Want a Parade for my Birthday

I F-ing love parades. LOVE them. If I could have my very own parade for my birthday, that’s the only gift I would want. (Friends, take note). We would all wear feathers and go dancing through the streets with trumpets and drum circles and confetti and throw gerbera daisies and cake pops onto our wildly exuberant audience and at the end I would get lifted up into the sky by giant balloons and then land on a fluffy bed of cotton candy.

What? That’s what I would want. Just saying. Anyway, fantasies aside, parades are pretty cool, and it seems that the rest of the world seems to agree. And, in fact, my daydream was not too far off from the reality of Santa Barbara’s annual Solstice Festival parade whose theme this year was–you guessed it– Fantasy.

Santa Barbara Solstice ParadeoSanta Barbara Solstice Parade mermaidSanta Barbara Solstice Parade


















Santa Barbara Solstice Parade

Each year over 100,000 spectators from around the world converge for Santa Barbara county’s largest arts event, the Solstice Festival and Parade. The parade began in 1974 as a birthday celebration for a popular mime (see–he got a parade for his birthday! I’m not so crazy to want one too, am I?) and later turned into a full blown festival. Each year it grows a little larger and more outlandish while attendees don face paint, fairy wings, flowers, wacky hairdos, and a variety of other “free-spirited” costumes while they gather to (drink beer and) watch the parade of even wilder stylings.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade

Santa Barbara Solstice ParadeSanta Barbara Solstice Parade

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade

I wanted to be in this parade so, so badly. Every year there is a large group of Brazilian dancers that gets fully decked out and bedazzled in giant colorful feathers and shiny, jeweled outfits and steals the show as they dance their hearts out like it’s the Brazilian Carnival. I have been taking Brazilian dance classes for several months and there is something about the movement that is just so free, so joyful and full of life, that it cuts straight to my core. It opens my heart and sets my soul free and I can’t help but smile and laugh and feel so alive! I was dying to wear those giant pink feathers and shake my hips through the streets, but due to scheduling conflicts, twas not to be.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2012


Santa Barbara Solstice Parade

But what is it about parades that is so appealing to me, and to the human race in general? For me, it’s that it’s always such a celebration of life and wonderful things (ok, I’m excluding things like funeral processions, because they don’t really count as parades. Sorry, dead people). It is a small moment of time during which the air we breathe contains not oxygen, but positivity and a pure zest for life; the satisfaction, the thrill, the bliss leaks from everyone’s pores and manifests itself in a magical haze that envelops each person and makes them realize all there is to love about a life in this world. But the moment is fleeting, and as soon as we tasted it it, it vanishes, only to be resurrected in the streets of next year’s parade.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade

While I didn’t get to participate in this year’s Solstice, I still had a grand ole time celebrating it with friends. It was an impeccably sunny day and we started the morning with mimosas and face painting at the rose garden in front of the Mission. We strolled through the scenic neighborhoods to Alameda Park, plucking flowers for our hair along the way, and watched the parade as it pulled in to the park for the festival. We got ourselves matching henna tattoos, met up with friends in the beer garden, and later walked downtown to continue the festivities–with an emergency cupcake stop at Crushcakes along the way, of course.

Santa Barbara Solstice at the Mission


Santa Barbara Solstice at the Mission


Emergency Cupcake Stop at Crushcakes Cupcakery

Santa Barbara Solstice Henna Tattoos

Overall, it was an incredible day of celebrating summertime, friends, and life. But, mark my words, I WILL wear feathers and jewels and dance in a parade some day–if not in the Santa Barbara Solstice parade, then I’ll just have to head to Brazil for the real thing! 😉

I encourage YOU to watch, and maybe even participate in, your next local parade!


Photo credits: Scott London, Ray Laser,  iNancy images