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It's baaaaack! Santa Barbara's Summer Solstice Parade returns after being disrupted by pandemic

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KCLU
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Some of the floats under construction for the 2022 Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Parade.

A thousand participants, and as many as 100,000 spectators are expected for Saturday's parade.

The noise of power tools echoes through a downtown Santa Barbara workshop.

People are scattered around the Garden Street complex turning what were wild ideas a few month ago into floats and costumes for a one of a kind event, the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Parade.

It’s returning Saturday after being turned into a virtual event for the past two years by the pandemic.

Solstice Executive Director Robin Elander said she's never seen this much excitement about the parade and festival, and thinks its pent-up energy from the pandemic.

If you’ve never seen the parade, picture something that’s a cross between a Mardi Gras and a Disney Parade, and you get the idea.

The theme of this years parade is Shine, and organizers believe participants are coming up with a number of floats and costumes to reflect it.

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KCLU
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Volunteers work on floats for the 2022 Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Parade.

Ricardo Morrison is the Solstice Parade’s Artistic Director. As we stood in the middle of the Solstice Workshop, Morrison told KCLU News the floats range from huge inflatable characters to wild artistic designs.

Solstice veteran Claudia Bratton is creating what will be an ensemble of elephants in the parade. She said she was inspired by the decorations she saw on elephants during a parade in India. But in the Solstice Parade, people will in many cases be the elephants.

Nicky LeFleur is using a sewing machine to create decorations for a float for the La Boheme Dance Group. Some 80 colorfully dressed people will dance their way down the parade route. LeFleur said she won't be in the parade, but enjoys creating floats, and costumes for others.

In addition to the parade returning for the first time in two years, the Summer Solstice Festival will return to Alameda Park Friday and Saturday. It features live entertainment, food and drink, and craft booths.

Geoffrey Barber has been a part of the Solstice Parade since 1979. He said it feels great to be back after the pandemic disruption

Barber says the Solstice crowd is a group of huggers, and it's been hard to go without those hugs for two years.

The Solstice Parade begins at noon on Saturday, in Downtown Santa Barbara. But, for the first time, it won’t be on State Street. The restaurant seating now on State Street mean it has to take a different route. After leaving the workshop on Garden Street, it will head up Santa Barbara Street to Alameda Park.

Around a thousand people are expected to take part in this year’s parade, with as many as 100,000 spectators on hand to watch the free event.