Summer Solstice Celebration in Santa Barbara

Think carnival in Southern California. An outrageous parade and weekend celebrations consisting of creativity, vibrant colors, art, music, and food. Spectators and participants alike arrive in costumes and make-up for this magical weekend.

The Santa Barbara Solstice Parade originated in 1974 as a birthday celebration created by/for Michael Gonzalez. But since then the celebration joined forces with the Summer Solstice Music Festival which now is the largest arts event in Santa Barbara County, drawing crowds of over 100,000 spectators from around the world

Currently, Santa Barbara is celebrating the 45th annual parade and festival. The celebration has continued throughout the years, however, the mission has stated the same, "to bring the community together thru the arts".

Months prior to the day of the parade, a workshop opens where participating artists and specialists work with the community to brainstorm concepts, build floats, create costumes and orchestrate their performances. Here is a link to Justin Gunn's short documentary highlighting the work that goes into the float building.

Every year the parade is given a theme and this year is titled "Wonder" (2018 was "Heroes").

The outrageously creative parade takes place every year on the Saturday closest, but not before, June 21st, the summer solstice.  Beginning at noon the parade lines up on Cota and State Street.  The procession makes its way along State for one-mile ending at Alameda Park. where the family celebration includes music, art, oodles of local food vendors and information booths. 

Host to the 3-day festival  (Friday - Sunday), Alameda Park (Alameda Plazas) is one of the City’s oldest parks. The two-block park houses a gazebo, picnic tables, rare trees, and Kid’s World, an 8,000 square foot playground with a castle, swings, slides; and two reservable party sites.

Enjoy these images captured of 2018's Summer Solstice Parade by Robert Bernstein.

INSIDER TIP: If you're planning your wedding for the 3rd Saturday in June, do note that downtown is bustling, and the town slows down. If there are two holidays I can suggest steering clear of Santa Barbara's downtown area for celebrations, Solstice and Old Spanish Days Fiesta (first weekend in August) are the two times of year that wine-country or the beach are better suited for your nuptials.