Fiesta: Old Spanish Days

by Courtney Dietz August 03, 2013

What’s All the Fuss About Fiesta?

True to its roots, the celebration of Old Spanish Days continues to attract droves of summer-time tourists to our festive city. Fiesta (as it is locally called) dates back to an organic gathering during California’s rancho period in the mid-1800s. Santa Barbara continued the tradition officially in 1924 with the 1st Historical Parade, which continues to be the largest equestrian parade in the country. From the Fiesta Pequena (Little Party) on the steps of the Old Mission to the mercados (market places) scattered across town to the stock horse show and rodeo, there is a little bit for everyone during Fiesta.

Fiesta Parade

Fiesta Parade this year. Photo credit: Bill Zeldis

We encourage you to participate in your own personal way (check out the official site here) but think the following three words/expressions will help you celebrate Fiesta like a local:

Photo Credit: Bill Zeldis

  • Elote – Mexican street corn is simple and delicious. Corn on the cob is grilled and then topped with some combination (depending on the recipe) of lime juice, butter, paprika, cotija cheese and salt. The results are just short of divine. Eat like a local by visiting the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado (227 North Nopal Street) for elote and all sorts of other culinary treats. It is off the beaten path but an experience not to be missed.

  • ¡Viva la! – Shortened from “Viva La Fiesta”, it translates by most to mean “long live the celebration”. This expression is shared between friends and strangers alike and can be heard echoing across the streets and plazas throughout the week. Bet you can’t say it without smiling?

  • Cascarones – Confetti-filled eggs are a persistent part of the Santa Barbara tradition. Families selling the hollowed out and decorated eggs can be found close to any of the celebration sites or mercados. Having one smashed on your head is said to bring good luck so get cracking!

Photo Credit: Bill Zeldis

But even with all the revelry, the festival has a meaningful mission. Santa Barbara has a
diverse cultural background that includes Chumash, Spanish, Mexican, and early American influences. Old Spanish Days is one way we continue the traditions and foster respect and hospitality as a City and as people.

¡Viva la!



Courtney Dietz
Courtney Dietz

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