Also known as the Italian Street Painting Festival, Santa Barbara hosts “I Madonnari” every Memorial Day Weekend, right in front of the Santa Barbara Mission. Various local artists display 150 large pastel images scattered throughout the Mission plaza. Admission is free and the festival benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts eduction program of the Santa Barbara County. The sister festival is located in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy.
Old Spanish Days Fiesta
Every summer during the first week of August, Santa Barbara puts on the Old Spanish Days Fiesta to celebrate the Spanish founders of the beautiful city. The first historical parade began in 1924 – the same year that the Community Arts Association of Santa Barbara planned the opening of the new Lobero Theatre. The locals wanted to create an event to attract summer visitors to their city and to celebrate the history of Santa Barbara. The five day festival welcomes those from all over the world to celebrate the foundation of the city. The “Fiesta Pequena” (The Little Fiesta) is held at the Santa Barbara Mission, “Noches de Ronda” (Nights of Gaiety) is held at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, De la Guerra Plaza hosts a colorful Mexican market where you can feast while enjoying live music, and the Fiesta Historical Parade circles Downtown Santa Barbara. Original Spanish California dances of the 19th century are performed throughout the days of the festival and decorated eggs and colored confetti cover the streets.
Parade of Lights
Every year in early December, Santa Barbara hosts a Boat Parade of Lights and a Downtown Holiday Parade to celebrate Christmas time. Over 50,000 spectators gather downtown on a Friday night to watch the marching bands, holiday floats, and performances. The tradition began in the early 1950s and it is Santa Barbara’s only night time street parade. The annual Parade of Lights takes place in the Santa Barbara Harbor and is preceded by a Santa’s Village activity on the City Pier. Locals decorate their boats for display and the best receive cash and prizes, awarded by the judges on Stearns Wharf. A small firework display follows the show.
Santa Barbara International Film Festival
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is an annual event that hosts 10 days of screenings, tribute events, panel discussions and parties. It is one of the most distinguished film festivals that brings Oscar award nominees, brilliant film makers, and remarkable independent films to the American Riviera. Every year, the festival also introduces regionally connected filmmakers to Santa Barbara. The 2014 Film Festival named Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio the winners of the Cinema Vanguard Award and Robert Redford the winner of the American Riviera Award.
To celebrate the longest day of the year, Santa Barbara puts on a Summer Solstice Celebration, drawing over 100,000 spectators from all over the world. Onlookers can enjoy the colorful display of floats, eccentric costumes, and masks presented in the parade. Dancing, music, food booths, and arts and craft vendors fill the streets for the vibrant celebration of life.