41st annual Summer Solstice Parade brings Sci-Fi to State Street

A space ship flies up State Street in the Summer Solstice Parade on Saturday. KENNETH SONG/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
A space ship flies up State Street in the Summer Solstice Parade on Saturday.
KENNETH SONG/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

A beautiful sunny day, a tight parade schedule and a host of fun floats and dance troupes made this year’s Summer Solstice Parade, the 41st annual, a huge success.

The theme this year was “Sci-Fi,” and there was plenty of outer space to be seen as the parade made its way up State Street from Cota to Micheltorena.

Dancers perform inside a giant inflated bubble. A group dressed in Martian-themed outfits walks and dances in front of a space-themed float. The Queen (Carolina Chufar) of the Summer Solstice Parade smiles for the spectators.
Dancers perform inside a giant inflated bubble.


A group dressed in Martian-themed outfits walks and dances in front of a space-themed float.


The Queen (Carolina Chufar) of the Summer Solstice Parade smiles for the spectators.

A spacey bicyclist waves to the crowd. Astronauts play with a giant ball. A little green man teases the crowd with some help from an astronaut.
A spacey bicyclist waves to the crowd.


Astronauts play with a giant ball.


A little green man teases the crowd with some help from an astronaut.

A gigantic inflatable solar system went bouncing up the parade route, aided by astronauts and green aliens. Parents pushed baby strollers with space shuttles on top of them. Characters from Star Wars and Star Trek roller-skated around each other.

There were also insects. A lot of insects. There were giant mantises and spiders and pill bugs, and tall bug puppets that stuck their tongues out at the children. One woman replaced the back wheel of her bike with an arachnid-style walking device that drew big cheers from the audience lining the route.

This year’s parade was one of the fastest. Organizers fixed last year’s problem of long spaces of nothing happening between the floats.

Mariano Silva’s Brazilian dance troupe, a mainstay of the parade for 14 years, led for the first time. Mr. Silva and his non-stop samba band wore the feathered headdress of his native Brazil, followed by a train of Carnaval dancers and capoeira artists.

“Sci-fi is about the imagination,” he said. “So everything could be sci-fi. (Executive Director) Claudia Bratton and (art director) Riccardo Morrison of Solstice allow the artists to express their true art. So I decided to do a little bit of the trees and the tropical side of Brazil.

“We were surprised to be the front of the parade this year,” he said. “I think it was good. We set the pace.”

Mr. Silva and his band will appear today at UCSB’s Brazilian Dance and Capoeira festival.

Another exhausted but happy group was La Boheme, a dance troupe nearly 60 strong, that executed a complex choreographed routine up the route to music chosen by disc jockey Darla Bea while clad in Barbarella-style silver outfits.

“This is my first Solstice parade, but I’ve watched them all since moving here in 2008,” said dancer Celia Wright. “I’ve been wanting to be in the parade every year and I liked the theme so I decided I was going to do it. … The energy was great and the weather was perfect.”

Ms. Bea has been in the parade since she was a little girl, but this was the first time as a DJ.

“I had an epiphany of doing this many years ago, before I even DJ’d,” she said. “I saw I would be on a Solstice float DJ’ing. I liked this. I didn’t have to walk. It was like being a princess.”

This was the 21st Solstice Parade for Laura Smith, who has watched her daughter and her friends go from just passengers on floats to young artists and builders.

This year, their float “The Federation of Mutant Alien Kids” provided a planet of friendly aliens.

“Every year I think I’m going to quit until (Claudia) comes up with the theme,” Ms. Smith said. “I don’t have to be inspired, I just let the kids tell me what they want to do and I help them made their dreams come true.”

The Solstice nonprofit offers a memorial scholarship named after Jethro Davis, which gives a stipend to young artists, 14 to 21, to build their own floats. Many kids will go from Ms. Smith’s float to their own art. In the case of Philadelphia’s John Sinclair, he came back to Solstice to build his own float, a large “cloud” of “data” that floated up State.

“We’re growing artists,” said Ms. Bratton, the Solstice executive director. “Literally and figuratively.”

The parade ended at Alameda Park, where the party continued until sundown and will resume today from noon to 6 p.m.

For more information about the Summer Solstice Celebration, go to www.solsticeparade.com.

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