Buzz: Patty Look Lewis’ Fiesta!

Posted online: August 2010

Patty Look Lewis

Patty Look Lewis

I was taught from an early age that Old Spanish Days Fiesta—this August 4 through 8—is the coolest week of the year in Santa Barbara. My mother told me stories of her early Fiesta days in the 1930s, when she would dance in the streets then come home to find the milkman making his delivery to their house on East Islay Street. It seems that many locals leave town during Fiesta week, but when I’ve been away from Santa Barbara, it is the one thing I pine for the most. There are several ingredients that must be stirred into my Fiesta dish to leave me feeling satisfied for another year.

CASCARONES The confetti eggs are the first sign of Old Spanish Days. I buy flats of them from the street vendors and delight in breaking them on anyone I can. The fact that you find confetti stuck in corners everywhere for weeks after helps Fiesta last longer.

Lewis' mother, Heartie Anne Edwards Look, ready for the parade circa 1933

Lewis' mother, Heartie Anne Edwards Look, ready for the parade circa 1933

LA FIESTA PEQUENA The first official event of Fiesta, August 4, 8 pm, is the most special to me. I love to stand on the closed-off Los Olivos Street and see the Old Mission Santa Barbara, 2201 Laguna St., Santa Barbara, 805-682-4713, santabarbaramission .org, lit up under the full moon with all the flamenco dancing at her feet. On this night especially, you can see why the padres chose to build this historic monument at the mouth of Mission Canyon. It is her finest hour.

MARIACHI After Fiesta Pequeña, the town is flooded with mariachi bands of all sizes. Hearing this traditional music keeps the Fiesta spirit going; I could listen to it all day long. My favorite thing is to stumble upon a group performing on De la Guerra Street in front of my gallery and ask them to play for an art opening. Anytime mariachis play, it makes the event special and heart-filled.

Picture 46COSTUMES My mother used to have a huge trunk filled with Fiesta clothing from various relatives. Old Spanish Days is the ultimate dress-up party. Even a simple flower in your hair can create Viva! Flamenco skirts can be found at Harlequins Theatrical Supply, 17 W. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara, 805-963-1209,, and random stores on Milpas Street.

PARADE Fiesta is nearing the end when the El Desfile Histórico, August 6, noon, occurs along State Street downtown. I go to see the horses—especially the ones from Mexico. I stand there the entire time with tears in my eyes. My family won’t even go with me anymore because I cry so much.

FOOD My gallery is located at “Fiesta Central” on De la Guerra Street. Picture 47This makes it easy to have my favorite chile verde tacos at El Mercado, August 4 to 7, 11 am–11 pm, in De la Guerra Plaza. Right next door at El Paseo Restaurant, 813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, 805-962-6050, you’ll find fresh guacamole and the best margaritas in town. I make sure to get to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 277 N. Nopal St., Santa Barbara, 805-965-4060, August 6 to 8, 11 am–10 pm, at least one night for their enchiladas.

Picture 45

A work by Charles Minsky

ART I celebrate Fiesta all year long in Patty Look Lewis Gallery, 25 E. De la Guerra St., Santa Barbara, 805-965-2525,, by hanging the works of Charles Minsky, Peter Treadwell, and Channing Peake. This way, I never have to be deprived of some Viva! when I need it.

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