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About the Festival

The Parade, photo:

Summer Solstice Parade began in 1974, as a birthday celebration for a popular artist and mime named Michael Gonzales. In subsequent years, their parade joined forces with a Summer Solstice Music Festival coordinated by Michael Felcher, sponsored by The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, staged at the Sunken Gardens to celebrate the longest day of year.

The Parade and Festival is the largest arts event in Santa Barbara County, drawing crowds of over 100,000 spectators from around the world. From these humble beginnings arose a celebration of life which, is like no other.

Today, the Summer Solstice Celebration has evolved into creative and original display of floats, giant puppets, whimsical costumes and masks of more than 1,000 parade participants, of all ethnic and economic backgrounds. There is dancing, music, drumming and drama that enthralls the spectators. Each year there is an annual artistic competition for the Solstice T-shirt and Poster design that is sold as a fundraising vehicle for the event. Visit our Solstice Store or Poster Gallery today to purchase T-shirts and posters.

The Festival in Alameda Park grew from the earlier gatherings at the sunken gardens of the County Courthouse. When the number of people outgrew the size of the courthouse the event was moved to Alameda Park. The Alameda Park is where everyone can enjoy a wonderful eclectic collection of live world music including famous local groups, food, arts and crafts. On Saturday only is a special free children’s festival and a DJ area for dancing and enjoying techno music and a large drum circle keeps the beat going all afternoon. The festival now opens on Friday afternoon, which is like the “evening events of years past.” It’s a special evening, showcasing local talents with music, dance, performances. Some of the parade ensembles are featured as well as all of the food booths, arts and crafts vendors. As a 501(c)3, nonprofit, community organization, the Summer Solstice Celebration group is responsible for carrying on Michael’s delightful, multicultural performing arts celebration, and ensuring an extravagant celebration of life through art for many years to come.

Past Parade Themes

1979 Children (first year with a theme)
1980 People Celebrating Art Through Life
1981 Ensemble
1982 Movement
1983 Mixed heritage
1984 Performance
1985 Carnival of Illusion
1986 Size
1987 Dance of Life
1988 Rhythm & Color
1989 Myths and Stories of the World
1990 The Sea
1991 Future Fantasy
1992 Garden of the Absurd
1993 Big
1994 Hot
1995 Toys, contraptions & thingamajigs
1996 High and Low
1997 Magic Mystics & Mysteries
1998 Food for Thought
1999 Comedia del Sol
2000 Dance of Light
2001 2001 A Space Oddity
2002 Circus
2003 Silly
2004 Art is in the Air
2005 Wild Things
2006 Dream
2007 Stars
2008 Solar Flair
2009 Splash
2010 Carnival
2011 Jungle
2012 Fantasy
2013 Creatures
2014 Games
2015 SCI FI
2016 Legends
2017 Celebrating Unity
2018 Heroes

Photo of woman in headdress marching in parade