Fiesta! A Santa Barbara Tradition: Images from the Pearl Chase Collection, 1924 - 1930

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Fiesta! A Santa Barbara Tradition: Images from the Pearl Chase Collection, 1924 - 1930


Founded in 1924, Old Spanish Days Fiesta is a celebration of Santa Barbara's Hispanic heritage. Utilizing Spanish flair to lure summertime tourists to the Santa Barbara area and distinguish the city amongst other surrounding cities, Fiesta incorporates a revival of the 1830s and 1840s Spanish style of dancing, music, and spectacle. These traditions draw from Mexican-period fiestas on nearby ranchos, along with many previous Santa Barbara-based festivals, including the Mission Centennial (1886), the Floral Parade (1891), and La Primavera (1920). This online photograph exhibit highlights some of the major traditions that have carried through from the first Fiestas of the mid-1920s to today, including the Children’s Parade, the Mercado, and the various locations around Santa Barbara that continue to be mainstays of Old Spanish Days.

This collection of photographs, donated to the Presidio Research Center by SBTHP's founder Pearl Chase, is composed of images by several photographers, including De Marino, Padilla, J.W. Collinge and most notably Karl Obert.

SBTHP invites you to reflect on Old Spanish Day’s roots and explore a selection of Miss Chase's collection.

For more information on rights and permissions for this collection, please visit the Presidio Research Center webpage (

Collection Items

Preparations for the Children’s Parade
The fashions of Old Spanish and the 1920's intermingle as children prepare for the parade down State Street.

Preparing for the Children's Parade
Children prepare for the parade as they play in and around one of the featured carts.

State Street Children's Parade
Children look out at the State Street crowds at the Carillo intersection and welcome them to the festivities. In the background, the original County National Bank, today the Montecito Bank and Trust, can be seen.

Dwight Murphy and his Palominos
Palomino horses, now a main feature in the Old Spanish Days Fiesta parade, are not native to Santa Barbara, but are the result of tireless work by Fiesta's first El Presidente, Dwight Murphy (above left). Golden Palomino horses, once known as…

The palomino horse was coined as "the living symbol of Old Spanish Days fiesta" in an August 3, 1941 News-Press article. These fair-maned horses were garbed in silver and paraded down State Street in the earliest Fiestas, and visitors still enjoy…

Fiesta performers in El Paseo
El Paseo was not only central to Fiesta, but to Santa Barbara's Spanish style as a whole. El Paseo opened in 1923 and, along with Casa de la Guerra, became the inspiration for reconstruction after the 1925 earthquake devastated the Santa Barbara…

Fiesta participants in “The Street in Spain”
Bernard and Irene Hoffman, the benefactors who hired James Osborne Craig to design El Paseo, hoped that the Street of Spain plan would be just "the beginning of a wonderful evolution which will take in all of the old Spanish town." Here, Fiesta…

Fiesta  Mercado
One of many traditions that have carried on from the original Fiesta, the mercado is still a local favorite. The original mercado featured vendors selling luscious fruit and vegetables.

The Fiesta  Mercado
Today, tents and booths line De La Guerra Street and De La Guerra Plaza; in the 1920s and 1930s, an open air market welcomed visitors and residents alike to De La Guerra Plaza and El Paseo.

Women with gourd baskets
With large gourds resting on their heads, these women travel around the mercado with flowers, vegetables, and fruit.

Performers gather in El Paseo
Gathered in El Paseo, Fiesta performers would dress in traditional Spanish attire that also evoked the current Hollywood interpretation of California history.

Music and dancing in El Paseo
El Paseo, built in the early 1920's around Casa de la Guerra, was the heart of Old Spanish Days Fiesta with a mercado, performances, and public gatherings. Here, one lovely lady performs a romantic Spanish dance surrounded by a six-piece…
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