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Photo credit: Gerry Melendez


No matter what type of music you fancy, Fiesta offers a full spectrum of musical delights for even the most finicky fiestero.

De la Guerra Plaza, called "the placita" by Santa Barbara traditionalists, will once again be the center stage for partygoers.

The placita will spotlight local dance studios whose members will perform salsa, folklorico and flamenco dances during a series of day performances.

When the summer night falls, bands like Spencer the Gardener, Brazilian jazz group Teka and the Latin jazz band The Garcia Brothers will entertain the thousands of torta- and burrito-eating fiesteros.

In step with last year's theme, event organizers are trying to make the mercado more family oriented.

"We're trying to stay away from the frat-style atmosphere," said Joe Velasco, musical coordinator for De la Guerra Plaza.

This year, the placita will also host more street vendors selling both food and souvenirs.

Local businesses will sponsor dozens of food booths at the four-day event.

"It's is really a year-long event," said Fiesta committee member Glenn Dickinson, of the planning for the event. "We appreciate the generosity of the sponsors and the support of the business community."

The placita's sister location for celebration, El Mercado del Norte at MacKenzie Park, Las Positas Road and State Street, will also host dozens of bands and dance studios during Fiesta. But this year, event organizers have their eyes on innovation.

"We are calling this the new Mercado del Norte," said mercado organizer Roger Perry. "We've retired all of the old-style booths and replaced them with new ones made out of galvanized steel. The layout of the park will be entirely different."

Organizers hope the $7,000 splurge will make the mercado easier on the eyes.

"Compared to what was there – it will be better," Perry said.

There will also be a new stage, one that Perry calls "more professional looking."

Del Norte has traditionally offered a more family-style atmosphere – full of events for the little Fiesteros. This year is expected to be no different, with an air bouncer and face-painting team on tap for the youngsters.

Admission to both mercados is free.

While many partygoers won't stray far from the traditional downtown stages, those on the Fiesta cutting edge might enjoy the vastly popular Mariachi Festival, scheduled for Saturday at the Santa Barbara County Bowl.

Last year, 4,600 people watched and listened to the mariachi sounds of Mexico.

Now in its second year, the festival digs deep into the hearts and memories of Mexican-Americans.

"A lot of older generation Mexican-Americans were raised with family events where they played mariachi music," said Salud Carbajal, a mariachi festival event organizer. "It is affectionate and sad – music used for every occasion."

Some of the mariachi performers include Sol de Mexico, Las Altenitas, Reyna de Los Angeles and Juvenil Mariachi, an all-youth group.

All of the ticket money for the festival goes back into the community, Salud said. Last year, the event raised $28,000, which was donated to two local organizations. Event organizers have not yet decided which organizations the money will go to this year.

The festival will begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Ticket prices are $15, $20 and $25 at Ticketmaster outlets.
Carbajal said he expects another sold-out crowd.

Once again, the Courthouse Sunken Garden will stage Fiesta's final event, the West Coast Symphony Orchestra conducted for the 31st year by Christoper Story VI. Bring your lawn chairs to the Courthouse Sunken Garden for the free performance at 3:30 p.m., Aug. 3.

After Fiesta, many people are still in the mood for more summer entertainment.

Luckily, open-air concert season – which includes flamenco (every Friday this summer), classical and jazz music – runs until September. Shoppers and pedestrians can hear performers at an array of locations, including the Paseo Nuevo and La Cumbre shopping centers.

Bob Ledner contracts music for the shopping centers and plays the flute.

"I love doing it (performing) outside," Ledner said. "You're not in a club. People stop and listen, and it's a beautiful setting. ... It's great for the community and tourists."

The concerts take place from noon to 3 p.m every day at the Paseo Nuevo mall, as well as from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Shoppers can catch performances at La Cumbre Shopping Center noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

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