Viva La Presidenta!

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 25, 2019

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more bubbly and enthusiastic supporter of Old Spanish Days Fiesta than Barbara Carroll, a Santa Barbara native who serves as a litigation attorney for a prestigious local firm when she’s not busy shouting “Viva La Fiesta!” for the better part of a week in mid-summer. Which is good news because Carroll is this year’s La Presidenta for the annual event that celebrates the history, customs and traditions of the Spanish, Mexican and Native American settlers that have contributed to the area’s rich cultural heritage.

Although Carroll’s tenure began last October, the action amps up in intensity this Sunday, July 28, as the annual La Recepción del Presidente kicks off Fiesta week. The evening in the beautiful outdoor Plaza del Sol at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort unites Fiesta history with the new year’s events that begin just three days later with Fiesta Pequeña at the Mission, and the opening of the Mercados and more. Guests decked out in Fiesta attire are greeted by an official receiving line headed by Carroll and her family, as well as the extended Fiesta family that features the Spirits of Fiesta, Saint Barbara and various Vice Presidentes. A hearty Mexican buffet is followed by entertainment from the 2019 Spirit Sophia Cordero and Junior Spirit Paloma Valenzuela and others before sunset marks a segue to dancing the night away under the stars. 

We caught up with the charming and loquacious Carroll for a brief chat as she was on her way out the door to attend yet another preliminary party, one she said she couldn’t be late to, because, ahem, she was the guest of honor. 

Q. How did you first get involved with Fiesta?

A. I started volunteering in 1986 when my aunt Betty asked me to help her as a parade announcer. I joined the board 20 years later and have been on it ever since. But I was also a flower girl in 1978, so I guess that was my gateway experience with Old Spanish Days. 

What’s it like to finally be La Presidenta?

Actually, it’s super fun! It’s a lot of work, to be clear, but it’s also very, very fun. I get to be “Santa Barbara-famous” for a few weeks. People in this city love Fiesta, despite what you might hear about those who want to leave town during the festival. The truth is, this community loves itself some Fiesta. So when people find out I’m Presidente they get very excited.

I’m invited to all sorts of different events, I’m going to all these companies for their private parties, not to mention all of the OSD official events. Plus, I get to be in the parade! That’s awesome!

Your theme for this year is “Spirit of Community.” What does that mean to you?

I chose it because I’ve been volunteering for Fiesta forever. When you are behind the scenes, you get to see how many thousands of people contribute hundreds of hours to make it happen. When you realize how so many different aspects come together for the festival, it just feels like Fiesta is the heart and soul of Santa Barbara. We’re the last festival of the season, and the biggest, and in my opinion it brings the entire community together. And everybody has their own special Fiesta memory. 

What’s yours?

My best memories are being at the Fiesta parade with my family. My dad would take us every year, to a spot on Castillo Street back when the route was different. He’d buy us Icees and we’d watch all the horses go by. It was fantastic! 

This Sunday is your big reception. Are you ready?

It’s not just for me, but for all of the former Presidentes and everybody on the board. There are past Presidents who are around to give advice and mentor the new ones. They whisper in your ear as you’re moving up, and as the year progresses they let you know what’s coming up and what you need to think about, the things you need to take hold of because it’s going to be a memory that lasts a lifetime…

But oh yeah, I’m very ready. I’ve got an awesome dress! 

Outside of Sunday, what are you most looking forward to?

That’s easy. The parade. I’m riding in it for the first time in my life. I learned to ride a horse especially for it. I’m super excited about it! 

(La Recepción del Presidente takes place 5 to 10 pm on Sunday, July 28, at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, 633 East Cabrillo Boulevard. Tickets cost $125. For more details about the event and everything Old Spanish Days Fiesta, visit or call (805) 962-8101.)

Heading South for a “Fair” Shake

The Ventura County Fair – which sports a 2019 theme of “A Country Fair with Ocean Air” that takes note of its prime location abutting the Pacific Ocean in Ventura – returns July 31 for its 144th year featuring a dozen days of entertainment, exhibits and all sorts of other excitement. Just about everything you can see or hear is free with basic fair admission, which runs just $12 for adults, and $9 for children and seniors. 

Leaving everything else aside – competitions, endless animal exhibitions, horse races, contests, 4H club displays, horticulture and all – that’s a steal just for the acts appearing daily as part of the Grandstand Arena concerts, which kick off with Styx on Opening Night, Wednesday, July 31. The lineup also includes country star Martina McBride (August 1), rock icon Melissa Etheridge (August 2), a disco-era triple-bill with The Ohio Players and special guests The Emotions and Evelyn “Champagne” King (August 3), X Ambassadors (August 5), ‘60s pop hitmakers Tommy James and the Shondells (August 6), country duo Brothers Osborne (August 6), Daughtry (August 7), George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ “Good to be Bad Tour – 45 Years of Rock” (August 8), and 1990s rock band Collective Soul (August 9). The arena also hosts Rodeo Days at the fair on closing weekend, Saturday, August 11, and Sunday, August 12, with two shows each day featuring P.R.C.A. Pro Rodeo action and adventure.

But the music-making isn’t confined to the big touring acts in the Grandstand Arena, as nearly 20 acts local to Ventura County also appear on various stages throughout the fair, including Beatles tribute band Sgt. Pepper; Oxnard’s Caliente 805, who play “Old Skool, Funk” and ‘70s RnB, Latin and jazz; Rockabilly revivalists Hard Six; the female-fronted classic rock cover band MisUnderstood; Zepp Heads, Ventura’s Led Zeppelin-loving ensemble; The Unforgettables Big Band, Thousand Oaks’s three-decade veteran 17-piece group that offers arrangements of songs by the biggest names in music from the 1930s to the present day; Ventura’s quarter-century old Main Street Jazz, which provides an energetic interpretation of contemporary standards in Dixieland style; and Moorpark country singer-songwriter Paige Peel, who has composed more than 300 country songs, including “Our Home,” written in the aftermath of the Borderline shooting.

Meanwhile, the massive Midway, open for a full 12 hours daily for thrill-seekers addicted to spinning, zipping, bobbing, falling and whirling rides, has some new carnival rides, including the intriguingly named Insomniac and HyperLoop, which spins riders up to 70 feet above the ground in a giant pendulum that loops all the way around, a full 360 degrees. The daringly adventurous of a different sort might be drawn to some of the new offerings in the food court at the fair. The new fare includes deep fried loaded chili cheese bacon tater tots (I can feel my heart palpitating just thinking about ‘em), Deep Fried Philly cheese steak fries, and heartburn-inducing ChurroLocos, consisting of corn churritos stuffed with pickled pork rinds, finely diced jicama, crisp cucumber, Japanese peanuts, clamato, chamoy, and special chili sauce and finished with a fresh squeeze of lime.

The Fairgrounds are just a 25-minute ride from Montecito, far closer and more temperate than either the Santa Barbara County Fair in Santa Maria or the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles. Get all the details of the Ventura County Fair – including full daily schedule and entertainment lineup – online at or call (805) 648-3376.

BASSH After Hours 

It’s been some time since the choreographers’ showcase known as BASSH – which has mounted a riveting annual show for nearly 20 years in town – produced one of its smaller, more risqué evenings called “After Hours” at a downtown nightclub. The dearth and delay have been due to scheduling conflicts, producer Derrick Curtis tells us. But now the evening of burlesque, Latin and cabaret dance entertainment, featuring a cornucopia of choreographers’ edgier ideas, is back with all new performances of works that are fun, sexy, “too hot” for the annual spring production, yet still tasteful, at a club where you can move around the space and get as close as you dare. Proceeds support the traditional revue’s 20th anniversary, BASSH 2020, set for next March at the New Vic Theatre. WHEN: 8 pm WHERE: Matrix Nightclub & Lounge, 409 State St. COST: $10 INFO: (805) 957-4111 or

The Sporting Life 

Reigning in the rain capital: Jeremy Casebeer, the Santa Barbara-raised 30-year-old son of the late local insurance legend and beach volleyball stalwart Chris Casebeer, won his first AVP beach tournament in late June in Seattle. To claim the title, Casebeer and his new partner Chaim Schalk, a 2016 Olympian for Canada, took down No. 1 seed Taylor Crabbe and Jake Gibb as well as the Santa Barbara-connected team of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena (both lived here or in Ventura in previous years).

It took six full years for Casebeer to capture a title as a pro on the top tour for beach volleyball in the U.S., and the team immediately took off for Europe for the FIVB World Championships. But now they’re back stateside for the next AVP event this weekend in Hermosa Beach, Casebeer’s adopted hometown post-college, where the duo will play in one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year from July 26-28, one that is topped locally only by the granddaddy of them all, the Manhattan Beach Open, slated for August 16-18. Cheer on the locals onsite or online via Amazon Prime’s live streaming. Visit for details. 

Polo Particulars

High goal season at the Santa Barbara Polo Club is already in full throng, with four 12-goal tournaments as well as the 16-goal opener, the Belmond El Encanto Robert Skene Trophy, already in the rearview mirror. But two of the biggest events of the season take place over the next five weeks, starting with the Farmers & Merchants Bank USPA America Cup, slated for July 26-August 11, followed by the prestigious Silver Air USPA Pacific Coast Open, running August 15-September 1. Tournament games take place on Fridays and Sundays, with all the accoutrements available on the weekend dates. If you’re a sports lover, or just a fan of the annual horse-filled Fiesta Parade, but have never made it down to Summerland to see some of the finest polo ponies (and players) in the land put through their paces, you owe it to yourself to spend a day in the sunshine savoring the sights, sounds and excitement of a top-flight polo match. Visit


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