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Fiesta '97 poster

Photo credit: Rafael Maldonado


teve Brown calls this year’s Fiesta poster one of the most beautiful he’s ever seen. And he should know — on the walls of his hardware store hang more than 20 Fiesta posters that span the last four decades.

Ron Lance, the previous owner of Learned Hardware at 3122 State St., began hanging the posters in the late 1950s. When Brown took over the store five years ago, he also became the curator of sorts of the poster collection.

Fiesta’s El President Michael Danley said that collection is one of the most extensive in town — which makes Brown well qualified to rate this year’s poster.

"It’s got a good, classic look to it," he said. "It really catches the eye."

This year’s poster design combines two photographs from the 1930s to create an image of a couple in traditional Mexican regalia with a mariachi band in the background. The poster’s designers superimposed the image of the couple over a shot of the mariachis standing on the stairs of El Paseo restaurant with their instruments.

"They look very Fiesta," Danley said. "The music of early California is a big part of Fiesta. This poster really pays tribute to the musical component of Fiesta."

Brown believes that using photographs instead of an illustration made this year’s poster livelier than some of those from years past.

"The last couple of drawn ones just seemed to lack the humanity that the photo-retouched version has," he said.

As is Fiesta tradition, El Presidente developed the concept for the poster. Danley received help putting the design together from Rich Ayling, who works in the marketing department of UCSB Extension.

After Danley and Ayling combined the photos, Ayling used a computer to tint the colors of the poster and design a festive border that incorporates Spanish fans and the sombrero brims into its pattern.

Danley said the poster — a tradition since the first Fiesta 73 years ago — is important because it raises anticipation for the event. The poster is usually the cover of the Fiesta brochure, which has a circulation of about 40,000, he said.

Fiesta organizers also try to sell a poster to every business in town, as well as to individuals so that they will be seen by the public. Danley estimates that nine out of 10 stores buy one of the $10 posters.

"We’ve had tremendous support from the business community," he said.

As Learned Hardware demonstrates, they also become collector’s items. Besides the store’s collection, one of the biggest is in the Old Spanish Days headquarters at the Carriage Museum, 129 Castillo Street, according to Danley. The headquarters has posters going back as far as the 1930s, he said.

But such extensive collections are rare, he added. Because only 2,000 to 2,500 posters are printed, they sometimes sell out before collectors can get one.

"There is no one single place that I’m aware that has them all," Danley said.

Posters are on sale now at local frame shops and bookstores, as well as Old Spanish Days headquarters, (805) 962-8101.

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