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June 2010

Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Parade 2010 - Charlie and Lily Join the Parade

Solstice 1

Every summer - the month of June, specifically - brings a high, soft gloom of fog to Santa Barbara.   It is a cool  gray buffer between us and the sun, known as "June Gloom".  It is a meteorological reality here.  It paints a diffuse vellum softness over the city for an entire month.

It arrives, without fail, because the nearby Santa Ynez Valley is already arid and hot.   The hills that were so recently green and lush after spring rains,  have dried to a high gold.  They are punctuated with large, leaning oaks crowned with dense green-black leaves. 

The early summer inland heat causes a phenomenon that pulls an eiderdown of fog from the surface of the Pacific, to huddle over this portion of the California coastline until July.  

There are days that the sun does not appear at all in Santa Barbara.  There are days that are cool and gray until sunset, when just a thin stripe of sky at the horizon reveals a fiery orange sun slipping into the blue ink of the sea.   Some days, the fog kinda  lifts at about noon, with lingering tufts that cling to the edges of the sky.

It is in the official season of  "Gloom" that we celebrate the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Parade.   By Summer Solstice, we are a like city of  pagans who have  survived another long, dull winter, deprived of the  light, warmth, color, celebrations - the very staff of life - music, dance, and motion.    We want friends, food and wine, laughter and comedy and flowers and noise and we want it in very great amounts.   It's a contagious state of being.

That is why you will find thousands of Santa Barbarans and visitors lining State Street waiting anxiously for the opulent show. 

Solstice 4

For many weeks and months, designers and artists and costumers have dedicated themselves, through talent and some sorcery, to creating this event.

Solstice 17

And today, on Summer Solstice, everyone is ready - the actors and the audience - the players and the spectators - the beholders and the beheld.

What is one, without the other?

Solstice 41

I am eager, too, for the event.  I always arrive early, at the crossroads of State and Cota Streets.  I watch the pageant unfold.   Costumed revelers begin to gather.  They come from every direction - an Elvis, a teapot, a dragon....

Solstice 25

drummers and dancers, wizards and gypsies....they fill the morning with their color, their energy, their enthusiasm.

Solstice 23

I like to watch grids and networks of drummers who lasso us with long, loud, rhythmic tattoos; beautiful ladies, who, with a practiced step and a shy downward glance,  capture the audience; I like the artists who put finishing touches on their exotic imaginary kingdoms and invite us to imagine it, too....and finally, we are ready.  Ready to dispel the fog, ready to draw down the sun, ready, so ready for summer.

Solstice 38

We all feel the pull of young summer - the growing season - a time of lightness and play and heat - from the oldest among us to the very young. 

Solstice 36

We are ready to usher the season by entering a dreamworld that will last but one afternoon.

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And I especially love the kids.  They are not perfect at anything, yet. 

But they already know - they are everything. 

Solstice 30

They wield their creativity  with abandon, and certainty, and pride.

Solstice 29

They step in to the make-believe world with authority, and allow us to peek in, too. 

Solstice 34

This year, I met Charlie and Lily, who, at the last moment, made a spontaneous and joyful creative move - they decided that morning to join the parade.  

It is never too late to join the Summer Solstice Parade.  

Solstice Charlie

Charlie and Lily found a box, and got out their crayons.  They cut and colored, glittered and glammed up the cardboard box.  They drew hearts on it, and wrote their names, and made it into a magical conveyance.  Then, they filled it with candy.  Charlie put on bright clothing and stickers, Lily donned a princess dress; mom painted their faces.  They brought all of their magic with them to State Street.

Solstice Lily

And finally, at High Noon, it was Showtime.

Solstice 19

The arc of balloons and the first floats began to move northward along State Street.   Slowly, the gray fog began to lift.   

Solstice 6

There were dancers followed by boys on unicycles, and a pretty girl on tall stilts....

Solstice 7

There was a movable Alice's Wonderland, complete with flamingos and a Red Queen....

Solstice 11

flags and banners, laughter and clapping and drums and drums and dancing.

Solstice 13

Sunlight splashed in the street, rippling rainbows flung out from sequins and colored glass.

Solstice 21

There were imaginary animals, lyrical blue cellophane waves, feathers, tambourines, flowers,

Solstice 15

and music that  ricocheted from the white adobe walls along State Street.

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And then,  there they were....Charlie and Lily,  in the middle of the parade, the middle of the day, the middle of the celebration.

They didn't need any special preparation or planning, just a moment's notice of joy....they were ready.

Solstice 14

It was just a really great day.  But for me, the best part of all, was  Charlie and Lily....

Solstice 18

They reminded me you don't need a plan, or a costume or a routine - just that moment of incipient joy. 

After all, it is never too late to join the parade.

Solstice 33

Summer Solstice!

Santa Barbara Summer Solstice 2010

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life....

I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive,

so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane

will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality,

so that we actually feel

the rapture of being alive.

That's what it's all finally about,

and that's what these clues help us to find within ourselves....

~ Joseph Campbell

Solstice Yard 10

The Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Parade begins today at noon at the corner of State and Cota Streets, and flows northward to Alameda Park....there, you'll join parade participants and celebrate, long into the night, with colorful and musical entertainment, more than 75 arts and crafts vendors, a children's play area, a beer and wine garden, and lots of delicious food...

Solstice Yard 1

The soul of Santa Barbara's dreams - her love of sunshine, laughter, color, music, and celebration - are an offering, born of a full year's planning, imagining, and hard, hard work.

Solstice Yard 7

Today, we come together at the fullest and highest point of the day - creators and spectators - to celebrate....not to look forward, or back, but just to be - today - in the fullness of life in this very special place.

Solstice Yard 3

Hundreds and hundreds of people have worked tirelessly to transform the town into a summer spectacle....and tens of thousands of people will arrive, eager to fall under the spell of Solstice...

Solstice Yard 5

We hope you are there to see it....

Solstice Yard 8

City of Santa Barbara Fire Department

Firefighters from LOC

Santa Barbara,  Santa Barbara Co. - population 7500; area 2560 acres; fire limit 30 acres; ordinance regulating sale and use of fireworks; mercantile, buildings -brick,  one,  two,  and three stories in height; dwellings, wood, one to two stories;  fire department consists of 1 steam engine,  1 hand engine,  2 chemical band extinguishers,  1 hook and ladder truck,  2 hose carriages;  Siamese couplings; used, 2100 feet cotton hose in good condition;  250 feet rubber,  good; 200, poor; value of department apparatus and supplies,  $6000;  membership of department, 60, all volunteer; total annual expenses, $100;  bell alarm;  chief elected by firemen at city election....

 Water Supply -  4 cisterns,  reservoirs,  Mission water works;  diameter of largest main or pipe,  7 inches;  smallest 2 inches;  25 hydrants;  pressure 75 pounds.

~The Insurance Year Book, Vol 18, 1887 - 1888

Fire season in this Mediterranean-like climate is long, hot, and treacherous.   Just last week, High Fire Season 2010, began in Santa Barbara.

The City of Santa Barbara Fire Department was founded in 1874.  In its earliest days as an American city, Santa Barbara's homes and businesses were built from some local brick, but  mostly timber that had been shipped down the coast from the Pacific Northwest.   Tinder-dry buildings and our dry summers and autumn weather created perfect fire conditions within the city, and in the countryside.

Our early firefighters were all volunteers who battled blazes in the city with simple tools in their bare hands, water from local creeks and reservoirs, and relatively little equipment.  The call to action came from a single alarm located at the fire department that was sited in De la Guerra Plaza, on the ground floor of City Hall.   Volunteers used man power alone to transport equipment to the scene of a fire.

In 1888, the department finally obtained a team of horses to pull the pumps and other gear.

It wasn't until 1896 that the City installed its first fire alarm system.  Nine alarms were placed around the city which had been divided into 34 "stations", allowing the volunteers to be called to the scene of a fire more quickly.  In 1910, the first motorized fire truck in Santa Barbara was put to work.



The Santa Barbara Fire Department was first organized in 1874 with a volunteer company,  and the following year, a Hook and Ladder company was formed.

 Conditions have changed much since then,  and today the Fire Department - with its up to date apparatus and efficient men - sets an example to other communities.   The members,  in addition to their ordinary duties, save the taxpayers money by executing repairs to City property - a case in point being the re-equipment of the City Jail,  where heating, sewage,  and ventilation arrangements were carried out .

The Chief Engineer of the Fire Department is AH Cooley.

~ John Reginald Southworth, Santa Barbara and Montecito - Past and Present, 1920

Old newspapers tell story after story of tremendous loss of homes, ranches, businesses, and possessions due to raging fires in the City of Santa Barbara, and throughout the entire area of Santa Barbara County.  

Our efforts at preventing fires have improved since those old days, building materials have improved, and the modern science of fighting fires is extremely sophisticated.   But fires continue to occur, both in our city, and in the wilderness surrounding us.  Almost annually, we do battle with wildfires. 

We name the wildfires in the parlance of locals.   We identify each one according to its place of  inception, with a single word, or a simple phrase:  Matilija, Paint,   Coyote, Sycamore, Gap, Jesusita, Tea....every summer and autumn, it seems - residents are displaced, homes and property lost.  And always - always, the community comes together to help, to rebuild, to heal.

Santa Barbara Fire 1917

We hear tales about the old fires, of the valiant human effort to quell many a formidable monster of flame with little more than modest amounts of water, shovels, rakes, wet burlap sacks, and incredible courage.   

Today, the City of Santa Barbara Fire Department consists of  112 men and women, firefighters and staff .  There are eight fire stations in the City of Santa Barbara.  Our modern firefighters are equal to their predecessors in their courage, determination, and steadfast commitment to their community.

In addition to their firefighting skills, today's firefighters are also experts at addressing a complex variety of other emergencies and disasters.   They are highly-trained professionals who arrive at the scene with lightening speed, and use a variety of incredible and sophisticated technology to aide them. 

City of Santa Barbara firefighters belong to a tightly knit web of first responders who answer the call for help throughout the Western United States - public agencies that are exquisitely coordinated to address any large emergency.

Jesusita Fire Mission SB

And now, it is summer again. Fire season.  Santa Barbara County is composed of hundreds of thousands of acres of dry grassland and chapparal, and remote areas that are often inaccessible to firefighters.  The back country becomes  especially dangerous at this time of the year.  Our hot weather is often accompanied by dry, gusting winds, known here as the "Santa Anas", which enhance and accelerate the spread and intensity of a fire.  

Santa Barbara Fire Dept

MUSCULAR AND NERVY RANGERS WANTED:  The main feature of our plan of protection is to have rangers who have good judgment,  muscle,  and nerve.   The ranger should keep level-headed,  and have judgment to know how and when to take every advantage of a fire.

He should have nerve and muscle to face the fiercest fire when called upon,  and jump in and fight it even though it singes his hair.   Men who can and will do that kind of work often win the fight.   In fighting brush fires in the mountains,  we have found that an attack on both flanks is necessary.   Therefore,  we are cutting trails or fire breaks along the tops of the main ridges between canyons and along the different ranges;  these trails,  or fire breaks,  allow the rangers and men fighting fires to confine the fire - usually to one canyon - as they have an open pathway on each side of the fire where they can keep along with it until the top of the range is reached,  or until night comes and the draught is down the canyon,  when they may be able to close in and head off the fire in the canyon.

In the low places along the ridge,  at the heads of some little canyons,  are the places that usually try the ranger's nerve.   The brush is usually thicker,  and the fire comes up pretty lively - and if it crosses the trail it will burn along the side of the next canyon and slowly down into it.   Therefore,  at these places,  hard work is called for and the fire break is cut wider.

A patrol is established around the burned district and kept up until all danger is past....

....There are more cattle grazed in the Santa Barbara reserve than all the rest of the reserves in Southern California.  One reason why I ask that stock enough be allowed,  is so that each year the grass that grows in the canyons may be fed off , because it dries up in dry seasons and if there is a body of that scattered over the ground the fire gets a quicker and better start.   We are not always in a position to get the wet sacks and it gets a headway so we can not stop it.  

~Guy Elliot Mitchell, Twelfth National Irrigation Congress, 1905

SBFD Heavy Rescue - Our Heroes

So, now, let each of us clear the brush and debris from around our homes, prepare ourselves and our families for potential emergencies, and thank, in advance, the city, county, state, and federal firefighters, the police, sheriffs, EMTs and others who will be there - as they always have been - to ensure the public safety.  

Visit the City of Santa Barbara Fire Department web page to learn more about its long history and to see old photos.  You will also find information about their  free  "Voluntary Defensible Space Inspection Program", erosion control, flood response, fire-resistant landscaping, as well as public education information.  You can also read their current newsletter.   

Santa Barbara Fire Station #3

By planning ahead, heeding the advice of experts, and using common sense, we can do our best to remain fire safe during the long, hot summer season that lies ahead.  

Arlington 1901

Aug 15, 1909 - Santa Barbara,  Cal

Hotel Arlington - main building,  3 stories,  wood with 1 story dining room and kitchen,  and 2 story laundry, adjoining 3 story annex; separated 20 feet;  fire started in attic of main building caused by defective electric wiring;  discovered at 7 PM by outsider;  public box alarm;  greater portion of main building,  small dining room,  and part of laundry and kitchen annexes destroyed;  duration - 3 hours;  1 inch hose on premises; fire excapes;  department handicapped by lack of modern truck. 

Extent of loss apparently due to failure to properly install electric wiring,  lack of watchman service , and lack of sufficient private fire apparatus. Loss $82,000

~Safety Maintenance and Production, 1909