L’Air du Temps
Oak Park is the melting pot site for many of the ethnically themed festivals Santa Barbara hosts, but the French Festival is a hands-down favorite. Where else in America can you visit the Eiffel Tower, pick up a crepe and a mimosa from s street-side vendor, and catch an old school Can-Can show, complete with petticoated dancers? Without losing your bon-bons like you might in Nevada’s nod to our Freedom Brothers?
Nowhere but our own French Festival. So it’s with grande anticipation Jim and I stroll toward the embowered festivities, l’air of summer still, and in the pleasant to hot range of mid 70’s.
Plenty neighborhood folk are at the park already, picnicking and playing, and even tossing a few pins around to test their motor skills.
Bubbles and laughter waft in our wake as we fall into the thick of it, passing revelers sporting berets and parasols, and even a few monarchs en route! The royals weren’t too pinkie-extended to stop for a photo opp, but I’d beware of posting any remarks about the Queen. She’s none other than Catherine de’Medicis herself, an Italian-born French ruler whose reputation as a poisoner proceeds her–a lot like her enemies did in death. Accompanied by an entourage that includes reluctant hubby: Henri the Third & distant cousin: Princess Margeurite de Lorraine-Vaudemont, these “scary” royals are part of: The Guilde of Sainte Marie, a non-profit historical reenactment society dedicated to the portrayal of noble class life in the 16th Century during the height of the Renaissance Period.
Henri the Third’s sister-in-law: Marguerite de Lorraine-Vaudemont, the Duchesse de Joyeuse.
And the whole royal court!
The park’s mighty Oaks cast shade in all the right places—well, excepting some of the vendor kiosks—and right away, the lulling strains of Ariana Tibi fill our ears with her powerful and melodic voice.
Ariana and father Jean Pierre (on acoustic guitar) have been performing in and around the Los Angeles area for the last 20 years, and it’s amazing to me that Hollywood has failed to scoop up this incredibly gifted chanteuse already. Evocative of Joan Baez, she nevertheless sang au Francais, and you’ll just have to catch the singer live, as my recording attempts came up a big fat Non.
After enjoying her set, we wandered to the more materialistic part of the festival, the vendor “fairway’ which seems to be a ubiquitous presence at most SB events. I guess we Santa Barbarans can’t get enough beef-on-a-stick, or—wait—is that escargot on a stick?
It’s both, actually! The wide variety of refreshments fuse American and French tastes, from Belgain waffles & crepes to sandwiches & beer, and while Jim enjoys a bit of the grape, I opt for a slightly tamer way to cool off. Gelato. As my eyes wander past a kiosk crested with “Aurora Face Painting” in large letters, though, my taste for the tame vanishes, and before you can say “Monet”, I’m seated, greeted and ready to be treated!
And voilà! I am beautiful dolphin girl!
Too bad I can’t wear this all the time! The vibrant blues and greens of my new dolphin “pet” match my eyes better than my outfit, and I feel Westside story “pretty” as we make our way past accordion ensemble: Dix E. Hix Band to cross the bridge to the park’s other side.
The fairy wing booth is another favorite vendor I see time and again at our Santa Barbara events, and the popularity of his merchandise warms the old cockles. Not just because of my predilection for the tales “they” write, but because I think it speaks to the whimsical attitude of our township as a whole–that a purveyor of fancies is so much in demand.
SylvanWoods Fairy Wings & Magical Things offers more than just fairy styled wings–there be dragons, too! Wings of dragons, at any rate, for your inner Godzilla, as well as streamered wands, garlands, skirts and free-form flowers. Everything for the well-dressed fairy is up for grabs, each brightly-colored, delicate gauze creation handcrafted by Will Pullen and Sylvia Cochrane, and every item as frothy as the spirit they evoke. L’aire du Temps, if you will, which loosely translated means: the spirit of the times.
A phrase so downright catchy it’s the name of a popular perfume, and definitely worthy of a lapel button. Good thing there’s a handy button maker on hand to do just that! (or any other image or phrase you’d like to tout to the world)
The family run enterprise is staffed by none other than an old writing group pal of mine: Sheila Tanksley, who, together with husband Sam and daughter Brenna, meet all the tagging needs of today’s pleasure-seeking crowd. Next time you want to button up, you’ll know where to find these locally based pinners.
After enjoying a few minutes of the music act set up on this nether stage, though, this painted lady is ready to hang up her chapeau. Time to grab a coffee in one of Santa Barbara’s many sidewalk cafés, and get back to reality with just a peu of French flavor.