With Santa Barbara’s summer solstice celebration returning just days away, local artists worked hard to create floats and costumes for several weeks.
Beginning in mid-May, the Community Arts Workshop at 631 Garden St. has been bustling with activities as artists and parade attendees build, paint, sew, and otherwise create floats, costumes, and masks for the parade.
This year’s parade will begin at noon on Saturday at the intersection of via Ortega and Santa Barbara with the theme “Shine”, along via Santa Barbara and ending in Alameda Park (in via Santa Barbara and Micheltorena), where it will be held the Solstice Festival. The parade, which hasn’t taken place since 2019 due to the pandemic, has a new route this year as State Street is closed to traffic and has outdoor dining areas along the carriageway.
In the month before the parade each year, the Solstice Workshop fills with artists, a community is formed, with many people committing to participate in the parade for years and even decades.
“It’s more like a communitas, which means it’s a temporary community that comes together around an event,” said Riccardo Morrison, artistic director of the Solstice. “So, some of us know each other because they’ve been around for a while and some are new people.”
Local artist Pali X-Mano has been creating inflatable floats for the Solstice parade every year since 1990.
An artist works on one of the Solstice Parade floats, inspired by the crab from the movie ‘Moana’ that collects shiny objects. (photo by Serena Guentz / Noozhawk)
This year, X-Mano will have two floats at the parade: an “Eternal Marriage” float, featuring a tree of life, a wedding bow and a skeleton “Eternal Couple”, and an “Eternal Flaming Heart” float, which includes X – Mano’s 25-foot inflatable heart with trapeze artists inside.
Artist Mae Logan said she had been in the Solstice Parade for about 15 years, since she was 7, and her mother took part in the Solstice before Logan was born. This year Logan is a mask maker and this is her first year on the Solstice staff.
“I basically grew up here,” Logan said. “I love it, it’s like my community.”
Other floats created in the workshop that can be seen in Saturday’s parade include a float inspired by a character from the movie “Moana”, the crab named Tamatoa which collects shiny gold objects which it then displays on its shell.
Several masks for the summer solstice parade can be found on the shelves in the mask making room of the Community Arts Workshop. (photo by Serena Guentz / Noozhawk)
Most of the materials used to create floats and costumes for the parade are recycled or reused items, or items donated and obtained from Art from Scrap and local thrift shops.
Morrison said there are about 20 floats at this year’s parade, with entries ranging from individuals or families with small floats to groups creating larger floats.
One of the groups that participate in the Solstice Parade every year is the Pass the Hat Ensemble, which includes its resident artist Lisa Thomas, who has participated in the Solstice Parade for the past 30 years.
“(Pass the hat) is the only fundraising group in the parade, and the mayor and city council join us, as well as some county supervisors,” said Thomas. “It is as if these great artists could come together for this one day and create this extraordinary work.”
While the Solstice festivities are just days away, Morrison said staff can still use volunteers and people willing to help for the weekend.
The artist Pali X-Mano stands with his “eternal couple” who will be the protagonist of his “eternal marriage” chariot in the Solstice parade. (photo by Serena Guentz / Noozhawk)
“It’s still possible to be on parade,” Morrison said. “We need pushers and extractors. It’s a human-powered parade and we need humans for power. “
He also said volunteers are always needed and welcome to help with the cleanup after the parade, which usually takes about three weeks.
Anyone interested in helping with the parade or cleanup can find contact information on the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration website.
The summer solstice parade and solstice festival are both free and open to the public, with the parade taking place on Saturdays and the festival running from 4pm to 9pm on Friday and 12pm to 9pm : 00 Saturday at Alameda Park, in Santa Barbara and via Micheltorena.
The Solstice Festival will have live music, food and street vendors, and a beer and wine garden for those over 21.