With the return of a full-blown Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days Fiesta in 2022 also comes a full-scale “Project Fiesta!”, the annual Santa Barbara Historical Museum exhibition that celebrates the traditions of this beloved citywide celebration. Due to pandemic restrictions, the Museum presented limited Fiesta exhibits during the past three years, including one held entirely outdoors. This year’s “Project Fiesta!” is back inside the Museum and features displays of beautifully restored costumes, shawls, posters, artwork, artifacts, historical photos, and some surprises.
New this Year – Masks and Scrapbook Excerpts
Several whimsical handmade cloth and papier-mâché masks used in Fiesta performances of the 1950s and 1960s are on view in this exhibit for the first time. They were created by Jerry Brosik for use in Folklorico dances performed on the Courthouse stage during Fiesta. The pig, reptile, two roosters, and other masks are on loan from the John E. Profant Foundation for the Arts. These and more masks can be seen in exhibit photos from historic and modern Fiesta performances.
A large scrapbook from the first year of Old Spanish Days is just one of the 47 scrapbooks spanning 80 years that were recently transferred by Old Spanish Days to the Museum’s Gledhill Research Library. The book on view has been fully digitized and can be explored by visitors to the exhibition.
Asking for Artifacts
“We want to go all-out for a major Fiesta exhibition for its hundredth anniversary in two years,” says Harwood. “Our collection is vast, but there are some gaps, so we are asking the public for their help. For example, we want to exhibit the colorful posters from every year that they were made, and more film and home movies from past Fiesta events would be terrific as well.”
The Museum’s collection of Fiesta posters includes those from 55 of Fiesta’s 93-year history, including the very first poster from 1924. Thirty-eight posters are still to be acquired.
Those interested in helping complete the collection should contact the Museum’s library at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fun Facts About the Museum’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta Collection
The pieces on view in this exhibition are drawn from the Museum’s varied collection of items related to Fiesta. The entire collection includes 40 pieces of fine art, thousands of photographs, hundreds of oral histories, official badges from every Fiesta, hundreds of souvenir pins, trophies, plates, and dolls – plus the head of a steer which drew a cart in the first parade, stuffed and mounted by artist Ed Borein.
More than 200 items of clothing are in the collection, including pieces worn at the first Fiesta in 1924, suits worn by early El Presidentes, the robe used by Saint Barbara from 1950 to 2012, Spirit of Fiesta dresses (including from before they were required to be white), and clothing from historic families such as De la Guerra.