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Old Spanish Days

“Celebrating our heritage” can mean different things. For some, it’s all about confetti and sombreros, fish tacos and flamenco performances. For others, it’s about the pride of being a fourth or fifth-generation Californian. The kids, for their part, mostly love an excuse to dress up and parade down State Street.

For the complete set of images from Fiesta 2013, click here.

Solstice Celebration

Each year at the end of June, Santa Barbara, California, officially kicks off summer with a three-day Solstice Celebration. The highlight of the event is a downtown parade known for its whimsical floats, colorfully-costumed stiltwalkers, goofy performance artists, Brazilian drummers, and giggling kids donning masks, costumes, and painted faces—to say nothing of the amazing samba dancers wearing feathers and sequins and not much else. The annual event got its start in 1974 and now attracts about 100,000 spectators and some 1,000 participants from near and far. Here are some of my photos from this year’s festivities.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Donning a colorful solstice-themed head-piece, Mr. Sunshine led the way up State Street.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Hilary Kleger was one of many beautiful dancers in the Hip Brazil dance troupe. Their elaborate headpieces and sexy sequined outfits conjured up images of the Rio Carneval.

Panzumo dance troupe at the 2013 Summer Solstice Parade: A Photo by Scott London

Panzumo, a high-energy drum and dance ensemble led by Lisa Beck (center), are longtime favorites at the Solstice Parade.

Robert Bernstein at the 2013 Solstice Parade: A Photo by Scott London

Unicyclist Robert Bernstein has been a part of the Solstice Parade since 1985.

Panzumo Dancers - A Photo by Scott London

 Taking inspiration from the 2013 theme “Creatures,” Emiliano Campobello played the part of a character from Avatar.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013 - A Photo by Scott London

All you need to participate, as twins Arran and Ethan will tell you, is some face-paint and neon hair dye.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Hip Brazil dancer Naomi Broomberg.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013 - A Photo by Scott London

Hip Brazil dancer Missy Butler.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Dancers dressed as winged mermaids? Why not, it’s a solstice party!

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013 - A Photo by Scott London

Hungarian-born artist Pali-X-Mano is known for his eye-popping inflatable sculptures. This year’s creation was a giant 30-foot “solar creature” with aerial dancers inside. The float barely fit under the tree canopy of State Street.

Santa Barbara Solstice Parade 2013: A Photo by Scott London

Hoopers Lindsey Mickelson and Veronika Petra.

Some of my images from the 2012 Solstice Celebration were featured on CNN last week. Check out Seven Strange and Wonderful Ways You Celebrate the Summer Solstice

For more of my photos from the Solstice festivities, go to:

On the Oscar Trail

It’s not Cannes or Sundance, but over the last three decades the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has established itself as one of America’s leading movie fests. The event typically draws about 70,000 people and features some 200 screenings, along with an impressive line-up of tributes, award shows, and panels with industry insiders.

But the big story each year revolves around the celebrities—the beautiful people who come to town and, for a few days, transform the place into the epicenter of the entertainment world. Given Santa Barbara’s proximity and deep ties to Hollywood, as well as the festival’s serendipitous timing—right in the middle of awards season—it’s no surprise the event has become a crucial stop on the Oscar trail.

The festival announces its line-up of awards and tributes in early January, before the annual Oscar nominations are revealed. The organizers have proven to be surprisingly prescient in recent years, often booking appearances with actors, directors and others in the industry who go on to be nominated for Academy Awards. In 2009, for example, the festival welcomed more than two dozen Oscar nominees.

But the festival’s knack for predicting winners can be attributed in no small part to the Hollywood publicity machine. Today celebrities and industry insiders routinely go on “Oscar tours” to generate buzz for their latest films, often backed by million-dollar advertising budgets. For Academy Award-contenders, an appearance in Santa Barbara can not only generate valuable publicity but improve the odds of a big win at the Oscars.

But it’s movie aficionados who are the big winners at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. For what could be better in the end than eleven full days of screenings, panels with prominent writers, producers, and directors, and tributes to the best and brightest in the business?

It was my fifth year covering the festival. I’ve posted a photoessay here.