Wade and Paula: Sharing Their Love with the World… and Sarah House

By Leslie Westbrook   |   June 14, 2022
Wade Cowper and Paula Phan chose to forego a traditional wedding and throw a benefit concert, Waula Fest, instead

Wade Stewart Cowper is a political consultant and Partner at CCA Enterprise. Born in Alaska when his father was Governor, Wade is a 4th generation Santa Barbarian. His significant other, Paula Phan, is a Senior Customer Experience Specialist for Novartis who is originally from Dana Point, California. The couple decided to forgo a traditional wedding and have a commitment ceremony followed by a wallop of a party. They’ve chosen to share their love before friends and family as well as our community and want to spread the love with a benefit concert for Sarah House – called “Waula,” an amalgam of their two first names – where one and all are invited to join in.

Leslie Westbrook (LW): First of all, congratulations on your upcoming commitment ceremony and Waula Music Festival! Wade, I’ve known you your entire life since your mom, Michael Stewart, and I were best friends since junior high school. And Paula I’ve come to adore you. I am very happy for you both. Tell us a bit about your love story – how you met, how long you have been together, etc.

Paula Phan (PP): When people tell you that you’ll never meet your true love at a bar, they’re wrong. He walked right up and started chatting with me. He asked someone to introduce him who didn’t actually know me, so that was funny. I knew there was something there, when he came over and picked me up for our first date and said, “It’s Restaurant Week, so we’re going to try two different places” and that’s what we did. We split two different tasting menus and they were both great. I had never met anyone so strangely confident. The rest is history. 

Wade Cowper (WC): Well, in fairness, we did go to law school together, so it’s not like I didn’t know she existed, we just hadn’t met. I asked this random guy to introduce us and we immediately hit it off. Paula has the best laugh, and that stood out to me. We’ve been together now for almost a decade and it’s always fun. We have such a great life together. 

LW: How did you come up with the idea of doing a charity event instead of doing a traditional blow out wedding? 

WC: Waula Festival has been an idea that we have had for years. The pandemic blew a big hole in our plans, just like everyone else. I’ve been to a few weddings, and I don’t want to speak for Paula, but I’m just there to go to a party… so we just cut out the middleman. Let’s just have the party bit and raise money for a great cause. 

PP: We love living here. Wade’s from Santa Barbara – and we love this community. It’s such an amazing place where people really have a caring spirit. This seemed like a great way to bring people together and raise some money for Sarah House. 

LW: What’s your association with Sarah House? With all the zillions of charities in town, why them?

WC: My mom and my grandpa (William Stewart) died within a year of each other at another local hospice house. I was blown away by the care that they received there, but I also got the bills… it’s not something that everyone can afford. A few months after that, I was playing basketball with a friend and he was telling me about Sarah House. I went down to take a tour, and was blown away by the level of care, and the level of grace shown by everyone there. I was so touched to find that there was a place that provided that kind of hospice care, but to folks who might not be able to afford it. Sarah House does that every day. They are angels there. 

PP: We are both on the board and on our monthly calls, the House Director, Paloma [Espino], shares stories of people who have been through the house in the last month. I call it “Paula’s crying time” because the stories are so touching. As someone who works in the medical industry, I’m very passionate about supporting an organization that provides access to those in need.

WC: I definitely recruited Paula for the Board (Laughs).

LW: Tell us about the event – where it’s going to be, what bands are playing and why you chose them, and what you hope to accomplish.

WC: Waula Music Festival is going to be a blast. We’re having it at El Presidio and people are going to be surprised by the transformation. It’s sort of a combination music festival and block party. We have the Greyhounds from Austin, Texas, my former hometown. We have Crush Club from New York, and of course, our friends and local legends Spencer the Gardener, with some special guests. We chose the bands because they all put on great shows, we’ve seen them all live before, and we like their music! 

PP: If there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s throw a party. We’ve got some party bands. Everyone is going to be dancing! You can check out some of the songs on our website. 

LW: You’ve asked friends and family to donate to Sarah House in lieu of gifts and I love that idea. Please share your philosophy about that.

WC: We don’t need another toaster. 

PP: As a couple, we recognize that we are in a place of relative comfort, but also in a place where we can do something for others, and we’re happy to do that.

LW: How much are tickets and is everyone welcome to Waula Fest?

WC: Of course, everyone is welcome! This is an event for the community. We chose bands that we thought would be enjoyed by Santa Barbara. Tickets start at $59 and we have a VIP section with some sweet amenities. I know people love amenities. 

PP: Yeah, VIP bathrooms. 

LW: Anything else you’d like to add?

WC & PP: Tickets for Waula Fest are available at waulafest.com. We’re so excited and we hope everyone comes out and has fun!


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