Old Spanish Days Santa Barbara

The background of the fiesta

Santa Barbarans have always been proud of their city's heritage from Spanish founders. Also from the Spanish, Mexican and North American pioneers who first settled on Santa Barbara and built the city. The tradition of colorful music, dance, and song together with a spirit of friendliness, hospitality and tolerance are part of this heritage which the Fiesta "Old Spanish Days In Santa Barbara" seeks to preserve and perpetuate.




 Old Spanish Days In Santa Barbara
In the year 1924, two circumstances motivated the first Fiesta.

First off, there had for some time been a feeling among the business people of the city that Santa Barbara should have an annual summer event to attract and entertain visitors. The city had come to be a favorite place for winter tourists, but visitors had not been drawn to Santa Barbara in any considerable number during the summer months.

Secondly, in August of 1924, the Community Arts Association of Santa Barbara planned the opening of the new Lobero Theatre.The old historic theater founded by Jose (Giuseppe) Lobero had been condemned and unused for several years until 1922 when the CAA purchased the property and began remodeling the building under the Spanish-California architectural plans of George Washington Smith. The executive director of the Community Arts Association, Hamilton McFadden, called a meeting of businesspeople to plan a celebration to mark the opening of the new theater. He approached a merchants' association, and a committee was formed of which Charles E. Pressley was elected chairman. The interest of the city manager, Herbert Nunn, was enlisted.

The group began to formulate plans for the celebration, designing some activities including a parade, rodeo, family activities, aquatic, athletic and musical events, and, of course, a gala celebration at the theater filled with Spanish dancing on its opening night. As preparations were under way for this community event, Mayor Charles M. Andrea declared fiesta week "one of festival and gaiety, during which period, which shall be known as 'Old Spanish Days,' the spirit of old Santa Barbara shall be lived again and again and the new Santa Barbara shall give way to the traditions of the city's founders", a time of homecoming for former residents and one of hospitality for guests.


Old Spanish Days Fiesta
In 1926 the group of merchants who had formed the first official "Old Spanish Days" committee and members of the parade committee met under the leadership of Dwight Murphy and established the present non-profit corporation of "Old Spanish Days Fiesta, Inc." Murphy was elected president and thus became the first "Presidente."

After the creation of a board of directors and an executive committee, the group undertook plans for Fiesta 1926, with the consensus of all the members that the celebration should continue the policy of presenting California traditions as exemplified in Santa Barbara's history. Many years later, the residents of Santa Barbara continue to preserve and celebrate the traditions of historical Santa Barbara through Old Spanish Days Fiesta!


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